Troy City Engineer Bill Huotari, Public Works Director Kurt Bovensiep, City Manager Mark Miller and project manager Ashely Levin stand at the start of a new trail that opened in August 2018. Residents indicated in a recent survey that they want more green spaces in the city.

Troy City Engineer Bill Huotari, Public Works Director Kurt Bovensiep, City Manager Mark Miller and project manager Ashely Levin stand at the start of a new trail that opened in August 2018. Residents indicated in a recent survey that they want more green spaces in the city.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Master plan survey results show need to focus on parks, green spaces

Respondents say no more multifamily developments

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published August 10, 2021


TROY — Troy Planning Commission members met with city Planning Director Brent Savidant and the city’s planning consultant, Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle, Wortman & Associates, July 13 to discuss the results and responses to the commission’s recent master plan survey, which was initiated May 27.

With more than 1,600 respondents, the city was able to reach its goal of collecting at least 1,500 responses, Savidant reported to the commission at their July 13 meeting. Of the respondents, 98% of them were Troy residents. With some overlap in selection, 49% of respondents shop in Troy, 23% work in the city, 22% have one or more children in the school district and 2% have another attachment to the city.

Residents responded that the community’s schools, neighborhoods, location and public safety officials were the four largest positives within the city, and they cited a need to focus more on parks and open spaces.

More than 60% of respondents said the city has enough open and green space. However, a majority (47%) of them, also believe more could be added; 39% of respondents do not believe the city has enough open or green space.

While park plans would likely be featured in a separate parks and recreation master plan, Carlisle explained, open space is a discussion to be had under the commission’s master plan umbrella. Park developments could be cross-referenced with the Planning Commission’s documents, he added.

Respondents seemed to care very little to see more development of commercial areas, Carlisle said. Of non-residential developments, 41% of respondents believed nothing is missing from the spread of businesses and services provided in the city. Other respondents believe the city could use more recreational and entertainment spaces.

“That’s not unusual,” Carlisle said, adding that demand for these amenities has been there for years.

Beyond a distaste for new commercial developments, some respondents, 34%, don’t believe the city needs any new residential developments either. Empty-nester homes and facilities soared to the top of the list for those who think the city could use more residential development, and multifamily units, like apartments and townhomes, scored the lowest, with only 6% of people responding positively toward them.

After Carlisle provided a broad overview of the survey results, the discussion transitioned to focus more specifically on six nodes, or intersections, of interest to the public: Crooks and Wattles roads; Wattles and Rochester roads; Long Lake and Livernois roads; Wattles and John R roads; Long Lake and Rochester roads; and Wattles and Livernois roads.

The city has 19 defined nodes overall. A node is defined as a 0.25- to 0.5-mile radius around the center of the corresponding intersection.

“We realize we can’t focus on all 19 nodes. That would not be a good use of time and resources,” Carlisle said. “(These) are six nodes that really scored the highest in terms of people’s concerns or interest, so we were hoping you would say these are six nodes to focus on, and that’s where we’d start the engagement process with the neighbors on these six nodes.”


Focusing on the nodes
The 19 neighborhood nodes defined by the city today were formed back in 2008, Savidant said, as the city was looking to take intersections primarily occupied by gas stations and strip malls and redevelop them for the new decade. Of the six nodes chosen to focus on, Carlisle said, there haven’t been many new developments in those areas since around the time nodes began to take shape.

“We were thinking if we create these nodes, maybe people will put little, tiny grocery stores, so people can walk to them,” Commissioner David Lambert said. “Obviously, economically, that just doesn’t work anymore, especially in a bedroom community like Troy. I think we need to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘Is that idea or vision of a node really working in a place like Troy anymore?’”

While the idea of a node may be outdated for the city, more important to some commissioners are the types of developments they and residents would like to see at these intersection corners. Of particular interest to commissioners was the Wattles and Crooks roads intersection.

“If we’re going to do something with the node there, it’s got to be something that is going to attract traffic to that intersection, where you have the potential for some other institutions or places which a person in that area could walk to, like a drugstore, for instance. I think we have too much jammed in there right now with the multifamily we’ve got,” Commissioner Michael Hutson said.

Commissioner Marianna Perakis disagreed, however.

“I don’t know if that’s an area that needs high traffic. The last thing I want is a CVS or Rite Aid on that corner,” she said, adding that she’d rather see the node be used to introduce more green space.

Commissioner Lakshmi Malalahalli envisions for that node, and all others in the city, what she sees currently at the Long Lake and Livernois roads intersection — a mix of uses with a focus on walkability, which could include a grocery store, a pharmacy, a strip mall, a hardware store, and nearby neighborhoods or townhomes.

With four of the six highest-priority nodes being located on Wattles Road, Lambert believes there’s immense pressure to develop by being adjacent to Big Beaver Road. He’d like to see the nodes on that road be used to transition between Big Beaver’s developments and more residential parts of the city.

“We have to look at that and see how we can manage the transition process better,” he said.


No more multifamily housing
While survey respondents and planning commissioners alike may not all be in agreement about forthcoming developments at these six nodes and across the community, one stance from residents was heard loud and clear: no more multifamily housing.

Populations from five of the six nodes said they believe single-family housing would best fit those nodes, with the second highest answer pointing to a mixed-use design. Carlisle said respondents showed no desire for multifamily housing, which peaked at 9% for the Wattles and Rochester roads and the Long Lake and Livernois roads intersections.

“The desire to go back to single-family, or  have these nodes be single-family, is really a thought we should think about, whether or not that’s the direction this commission wants to go in,” he said, adding that none of the six nodes being discussed would be currently characterized as single-family areas.

Perakis said the survey responses should be a guide on how to approach new, future developments within the six nodes. Commissioner Tom Krent took it a step further to ask, and to possibly examine in the future, whether residential developments should be allowed within designated node areas at all.

“Personally I don’t think so, especially not row housing (or) high-density housing in an already congested traffic area,” he said.

However, that may be easier said than done, Lambert acknowledged. He believes there’s a contradiction between residents wanting more empty-nester housing but less multifamily developments.

“We’ve already seen in at least one project that these empty-nester homes are pretty expensive for the average person who is in retirement years, unless they have a big nest egg. How do we meet that contradiction between providing empty-nester facilities or homes, and at the same (have) no more multifamily or no more condos? I think that will have to be a struggle we’ll have to work through together.”

Savidant, Carlisle and Planning Commission members plan to further incorporate walking tours on the site of the six nodes to speak with residents and better understand what types of developments they may want to see there in the future.

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