Park in play after strong approval at polls

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published November 12, 2014

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ROYAL OAK — After a strong showing of support at the polls for the Normandy Oaks Golf Course park proposal, city officials are putting a plan in place to bring a 40-acre passive-use park closer to reality.

Mayor Jim Ellison said the first order of business is to reconvene the Normandy Oaks Task Force — a committee created in March and chaired by Ellison — with the goal of creating a plan for the future of the struggling Normandy Oaks Golf Course, located at 4234 Delemere Blvd. on the city’s north side.

“We’ll plan out our next steps and see what we need to do,” he said.

Ellison said that, ideally, he would like to have the portion of the property approved for sale on the market by spring.

“But as far as hard changes to the course, we may be better than a year down the line before we start doing construction,” Ellison said.

Development of the park is reliant upon the sale of up to 10 acres of the 50-acre golf course, which voters approved Nov. 4 with 76 percent of the vote. The sale will generate the money for the park renovations. According to the Oakland County Elections Division’s unofficial results, the vote was 15,969 for the park and property sale versus 5,104 votes against the proposal.

Voter approval was needed because the recreational property was protected by a 2010 ordinance requiring the vote of the public to sell the city-owned golf course, the driving range or the parking lot in front of the driving range.

Ellison declined to comment on the current value of the 10 acres of land proposed for sale, but it has been estimated in the past at about $4 million-$6.4 million. There is interest in the property for a development of about 34 single-family homes fronting Dakota and portions of Woodland and Delemere.

City officials said the sale proceeds also will be used to improve the existing Royal Oak Golf Course and other city parks.

Initial plans for the 40-acre passive-use park include walking and biking trails, nature trails, cross-country skiing, a picnic area, a sprinkler pad and two full-size soccer fields.

“The new park will address three of the highest, immediate needs of our master plan — soccer fields, picnic shelters and a water element. A water element is No. 1 on our residents’ wish list, and the city has a deficiency in its number of soccer fields and picnic shelters,” Royal Oak Recreation Director Tod Gazetti said.

Ellison said he would like all elements of the initial plan to stay in place, but feedback will be considered as to whether or not those features could be enhanced or new features added.

“We are going to discuss how to get the public involved in the process, whether that be expanding the committee, hosting town hall meetings or conducting a survey. All of those are options,” Ellison said. “The point being, we are going to start making the hard plans. We are going to start getting residents’ input about the final design.”

The amenities considered for the passive park came from a Royal Oak 2012 public opinion survey and citizen feedback during a July 9 town hall meeting.

Normandy Oaks Golf Course is one of two nine-hole, city-owned courses in Royal Oak. Royal Oak Golf Course, 3417 Don Soper Drive, will stay open to the public. City officials said the Normandy course was scheduled to close regardless of last week’s election results.

Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said the number of rounds of golf played at both city courses has declined. She said the total rounds of golf played at both city-owned courses combined is less than the demand the city used to have at the Royal Oak Golf Course alone.

City officials began talking about the future of Normandy Oaks in February after the management company for both courses, Royal Oak LLC, asked the city to close Normandy so it could focus on the upkeep of Royal Oak Golf Course, the more popular of the two.

“I’m excited because we are going to be able to put a nice facility up there,” Ellison said.

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