Community developments have been among the recent highlights in the greater West Bloomfield area.

Community developments have been among the recent highlights in the greater West Bloomfield area.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Officials share goals for 2022 in Greater West Bloomfield area

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 20, 2022


WEST BLOOMFIELD/KEEGO HARBOR/ORCHARD LAKE — With 2021 now in the rearview mirror, local leaders recently reflected on the past year and focused on aspirations for the year ahead.

West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan’s recap of last year would likely be echoed by nearly every mayor and supervisor in the nation.

“2021 is unique in township history, in state history, in light of the coronavirus,” Kaplan said. “The pandemic scourge is a game-changer.”

Kaplan elaborated on how the pandemic has impacted the township.

“Municipalities have been affected in many ways, including health concerns, the demand on medical, paramedic and ambulance service, and hospital stays,” he said.

The pandemic has also impacted local businesses.

“Small businesses are having a difficult time surviving because they’re not part of a national network,” Kaplan said. “Approximately 80 small businesses in West Bloomfield have closed in the past 22 months. But on the other side, the good news is that more than 50 new businesses have opened.”

Keego Harbor Mayor John Fletcher said making it through a year of COVID-19 “was not easy.” However, one accomplishment that has the potential to positively impact the city for years to come is what is known as the Village Plan, which was approved at a Keego City Council meeting last July.

The plan was approved after the Gibbs Planning Group in Birmingham conducted a study on behalf of the city.

Keego City Council member Brian Lampl previously referred to it as the “reimagining of the Cass Lake corridor.”

The plan involves transforming a section of Keego Harbor along Cass Lake Road into a walkable, traditional, small-scaled village.

Part of the plan involves the creation of a new town square, which is expected to be lined with 20 to 30 small shops and cafés at street level, with widened walkways and outside dining patios.

Also proposed as part of the plan is a small, specialty grocery store and 200 new residential dwellings designed to appeal to a diverse range of ages, incomes and demographic groups.

Lofts, townhomes, cottages and condominiums priced from modest to upscale levels could be among the kinds of homes residents will see.

When asked about highlights from 2021 for Keego Harbor, the Village Plan is what was on Fletcher’s mind.

“I think the biggest one is the completion of the Gibbs study, re-imagining Keego Harbor and getting a lot of input from our residents and the complete vision, so that we can all work forward towards completing that vision,” he said.

Orchard Lake Village Mayor Norm Finkelstein shared his evaluation of last year.

“2021 was a great year for the City of Orchard Lake Village despite the challenges of COVID, which affected so many,” he stated via email. “We did mourn the loss of longtime councilman and former mayor Gerald Kosmensky early in the year. He was 92.”

Finkelstein also acknowledged another former city official.

“2021 brought the retirement of Police Chief Joe George, whose contributions to modernizing our department over the years were numerous,” he stated. “We were fortunate to promote officer Bill Nicholson to replace him and also to promote Tony Banks to the newly created detective lieutenant position.”

Finkelstein was also pleased with how things went financially.

“Our finances continued their annual improvement since the downturn of earlier in the decade,” he stated. “We were able to step up our road maintenance program and have begun actual replacement rather than overlays where warranted. This will provide many additional years of service.”

Finkelstein also shared thoughts on a proposal Orchard Lake residents decided on last year.

“After several years of study, we completed preliminary plans for our needed city campus improvements,” he stated. “In November, the voters overwhelmingly approved a $4.5 million 20-year bond issue to finance the construction of a safer and more efficient police station and DPW facility. Funds to retire these bonds are included in our current and future budgets, so no new taxes were required. Architects are starting to develop the final plans, and construction is expected to be substantially, if not all, completed this year.”

West Bloomfield also plans to improve its Police Department.

“The Police Department is going to be enhanced and renovated to the tune of about $5 million,” Kaplan said. “The police station was constructed in 1993, so it has been 28 years. Staffing has increased at the Police Department. … Certain areas within the building need to be enhanced.”

Kaplan said the money for the project will come from the township’s capital improvement fund.

According to Kaplan, the construction of residences, condominiums and apartment buildings in the township has increased substantially.

“We are euphoric over the developments,” he said. “For one, they add to the tax base. Two, they bring customers to businesses, and three, they give reasons for individuals to move to or remain in West Bloomfield. … And they cast the appearance of vibrancy within a community.”

Kaplan shared details of a couple of the developments.

“The two that we’re most pleased with are the former Performance Auto on Orchard Lake Road, next to Cauley Ferrari,” he said. “That building had been unoccupied for about 10 years. … A five-story upper-crust apartment building is being constructed, which will contain a swimming pool on the fifth floor. So, those residents are extremely likely to patronize West Bloomfield businesses, whether it’s a gas station, drug store, grocery store — a small business.”

Kaplan also provided his thoughts about the other development that got his attention.

“The other building we’re pleased with is the former Barnes & Noble building (on) Orchard Lake Road, across from Stage Deli,” he said. “That is going to be a market.”

Both the apartment building and market could be ready for occupancy by the fall, according to Kaplan.

Kaplan said West Bloomfield is in a “stupendous state.”

“We’re extremely stable and secure in terms of our funding,” he said. “I think we’re in an excellent position, and our goal is to provide full and quality services to our residents and businesses.”

With Keego Harbor being a waterfront community, a “big goal” for Fletcher is to get a wetlands ordinance passed.

He also has another aspiration for this year.

“One of my most important goals is to get our road preservation program back on line,” Fletcher said. “That started about 10 years ago. Time to repave all of our streets in our city without tax increases. We’ve saved our money as we can, and we’re moving forward with that this year. Hopefully, in the next three years, we’re able to complete that.”

Fletcher said this is his third time serving as Keego Harbor’s mayor.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and right now, I’ve got four great members of council to work with who are very diverse in our backgrounds, our occupations,” he said. “We complement each other very, very well. … This is an absolute pleasure.”

Finkelstein is pleased with Orchard Lake’s current position.

“As we look forward to 2022 and beyond, our city is in very capable hands with the addition of some new blood to our council, as Freed Leeb and Dave Sullivan took their seats in November,” he stated. “The new improved city campus will be a real asset to the community. Continued growth of some new homes and much remodeling of our existing housing stock provide increased revenue to the city, and we are able to maintain a healthy fund balance. Orchard Lake will always be a unique and beautiful place to live.”

Sylvan Lake Mayor Ben Clarke did not respond to an opportunity to provide comments by press time.

Call Staff Writer Mark Vest at (586) 498-1052.