Members of the Warriors for Christ, based in Bristol, Tennessee, shout at the crowd of supporters of Drag Queen Storytime during a protest and counterprotest Jan. 26.

Members of the Warriors for Christ, based in Bristol, Tennessee, shout at the crowd of supporters of Drag Queen Storytime during a protest and counterprotest Jan. 26.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Take a look back at some notable stories from 2019

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 27, 2019

 A heavy piece of machinery tears down a section of the Berkley Ice Arena’s wall during its demolition Aug. 7.

A heavy piece of machinery tears down a section of the Berkley Ice Arena’s wall during its demolition Aug. 7.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Huntington Woods teen Georgia Stoy, who lobbied her city to allow backyard chickens as pets, received her three hens in the summer after she got the City Commission to change its ordinance earlier that year.

Huntington Woods teen Georgia Stoy, who lobbied her city to allow backyard chickens as pets, received her three hens in the summer after she got the City Commission to change its ordinance earlier that year.

File photo by Mike Koury

 Becky Wyatt, of Ferndale, and Paul Hegedüs, of Livonia, found their way to Ferndale Pride June 1 after participating in the Rainbow Run earlier in the day.

Becky Wyatt, of Ferndale, and Paul Hegedüs, of Livonia, found their way to Ferndale Pride June 1 after participating in the Rainbow Run earlier in the day.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

 Brandon Frederick nails a frontside 5-0 grind at Ferndale’s new skate park  July 11 at Geary Park.

Brandon Frederick nails a frontside 5-0 grind at Ferndale’s new skate park July 11 at Geary Park.

File photo by Mike Koury

  Ferndale city officials and council members break ground on the mixed-use parking structure known as the development on Troy, or “The dot,” Feb. 2.

Ferndale city officials and council members break ground on the mixed-use parking structure known as the development on Troy, or “The dot,” Feb. 2.

File photo by Mike Koury

FERNDALE/HUNTINGTON WOODS/BERKLEY — Here’s a look at several stories that shaped the last 12 months in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area.


Drag Queen Storytime attracts controversy, support
At the end of 2018, Drag Queen Storytime, a program at the Huntington Woods Public Library, received a lot of attention from critics who wanted the city to shut it down.

The controversy started after former City Commissioner Allison Iversen sent an email to the youth services director at the library, Joyce Krom, advocating for the discontinuation of the event or to change it to an adult event.

The program gathered the attention of an out-of-state group called MassResistance in part because of Iversen, who claimed that this happened accidentally. Iversen said she thought she was communicating with a resident and that she “would never intentionally invite an outside group to protest in our neighborhood.”

Though the City Commission affirmed at a December 2018 meeting its support for the program and that it would continue, it didn’t stop protesters from protesting the next Drag Queen Storytime Jan. 26.

The dozen or more who showed up to protest the children’s program were met with hundreds of counterprotesters who came to show their support for the event and the people attending it that day.

“For the last year, (story time) has been ongoing ... and I’ve supported it. I thought it was great. It made me like my community a lot more,” said Bree Stocker-Smart, who attended with her family. “When I found out that there were folks that were protesting, including a city (commissioner) who started it all, it made me upset. I was angry. I felt a little … angry that our quiet, sleepy neighborhood that’s super liberal, I like to think, was getting dragged into this. So I wanted to make sure that the good folks came out in numbers.”

Once again stating the city’s support for the program, Mayor Bob Paul said Drag Queen Storytime represents the values of Huntington Woods, while also saying drag queens are a part of society and that no harm comes from offering the gift of reading.

“If the program helps one child to feel more accepted, less bullied, less likely to be depressed or have thoughts of suicide, then it is a huge success,” he said.


Baker College ends negotiations for downtown Ferndale campus
In January, it was announced that the city of Ferndale had entered into an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with Baker College to purchase property in the downtown for a potential campus.

The announcement was followed by criticism from residents that a campus at Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue wouldn’t be a good fit and that it would have a negative effect on the downtown.

What followed were months of discussions between the city, college and residents, with questions ranging from how the project might look, if it could go anywhere else in Ferndale besides Nine Mile, how parking would fit into the scope of the project and if Baker would be successful in the downtown.

Ultimately, Baker and its partner, Acquest Realty Advisors Inc., announced in April that the college was backing out of negotiations to purchase any land. Parking was cited as the main issue for ending talks.

“We believe that Baker and the City of Ferndale would have been a great partnership,” Patrick G. Ong, a principal with Acquest, said in a statement. “However, the issue of parking during construction was one obstacle that could not be overcome. The only viable solution was to build the parking deck first and then begin construction on the college. This option would have delayed the project for a year, and that is not consistent with our client’s master plan. Therefore, after much thought and deliberation, Baker College and Acquest Realty Advisors Inc. have concluded that it is time to end our negotiations with the City of Ferndale.”

When asked by a resident at a council meeting why they voted to enter the exclusive negotiating rights agreement in the first place, then-Councilman Dan Martin stated that the project had some potential and possibilities, and the council owed it to itself and constituents to explore it.

“The ENRA does not mean it’s a done deal or anything else, but gives us an opportunity to collect data and collect information, explore the public benefits, and look at things like parking mitigation and how we get around those things,” he previously said. “I voted to support the ENRA because I thought it was worth taking a breath and exploring those things and looking into, and I don’t regret doing that. I think if someone shows an interest in that level in the city … we should take the time to explore that better.”


Coolidge Highway undergoes road diet
A 1-mile stretch of Coolidge Highway underwent a road diet in the spring, and data collecting and observation of the two-year pilot project by the city of Berkley will continue until 2021.

The Coolidge Highway restriping and lane reduction project saw the roadway between 11 Mile and 12 Mile roads undergo a significant change. The street was restriped from four lanes to two with a new middle left-turn lane. Bike lanes and additional parking on the street also were added.

The city conducted the road diet in hopes that the changes will improve traffic flow, decrease crashes and increase traffic to businesses on Coolidge Highway. It’s been previously stated that, at the 12-month mark, if the city has not seen the desired result from the road diet, the City Council can vote to reverse the changes and go back to the original lanes and striping.

After six months, the City Council heard an update Dec. 2 on the data and feedback that had been collected by the Transportation Improvement Authority and from residents and groups in Berkley.

The data measured traffic volumes, peak-hour traffic, crash data and more on streets that run parallel to Coolidge — and Coolidge itself — including Kipling Avenue, Kenmore Road, Beverly Boulevard and Berkley Avenue.

Other data analysis resulted in a call to install a left-turn signal at Catalpa Drive off Coolidge and to make adjustments to the timing of lights within the corridor, including at Harvard and 11 Mile roads, to accommodate the flow of traffic and improve the amount of time it takes to travel between 11 Mile and 12 Mile roads. City Manager Matt Baumgarten previously said that data are still being analyzed.


La Salette project gets approval in Berkley
2018 saw the Berkley City Council reject plans for a project at the site of the former Our Lady of La Salette School on Coolidge Highway. In 2019, a new set of plans for an apartment project from developer 2219 Coolidge LLC made its way through the city, where it gained approval to commence at the long-vacant site.

Developer 2219 Coolidge LLC will redevelop the 22,923-square-foot structure into a multifamily residential building with 55 living units on three floors.

Whereas previous plans for the site were criticized for trying to do too much on the land, the current project received a more positive reception from the city.

At the Nov. 26 meeting, where the project gained site plan approval, Planning Commissioner Mark Richardson said the project was “more in line” with some of the original concepts that were brought to the city when talks of a project at the site began.

“I was enthusiastic about renovating the old school building, and I think it’s very much aligned with the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s very contextual with the neighborhood. I think it will mostly bring new people to town, which is not a bad thing.”

When the plan first came to the city in the summer, developer Steve Friedman called the project “simple.”

“I think we’ve taken it now down to the lowest common denominator, where we were able to keep the existing structure and hopefully retrofit it to some beautiful apartments and some townhouses at the rear of the property,” he said. “It’s very simple — a simple process that we’re going through here with regards to the building. We’re keeping the existing building just the way it’s been for many, many, many, many years, and we’re just going inside and converting it to a use for multifamily.”

Developers stated that the price of a unit could be anywhere from $1,400 to $2,200 a month, depending on its size. The project is slated to begin this year.


Ferndale, Berkley see tragic deaths
The cities of Ferndale and Berkley each saw community members killed in the month of July.

Ferndale resident Lily Camara, 28, was reported missing to local police by a friend of her family July 5. She was last seen at approximately 5:30 p.m. July 2, after she had dropped off her child at her parents’ home in Ann Arbor. Camara was expected to attend an event that same day in metro Detroit, but she never showed.

It was the next day, at approximately 7:15 a.m. July 3, that human remains “burned beyond recognition” were discovered by the Detroit Fire Department, inside a location in the 14000 block of Young Street. The burned body was positively identified as Camara July 7.

The next month, on Aug. 26, a media release was sent out by Detroit police featuring security camera footage of a person of interest who was last seen driving Camara’s missing vehicle, a black 2017 Ford Edge.

As of Dec. 23, there has been no update from Detroit police on the status of the case.

Not quite three weeks after Camara’s death, 24-year-old Tyler Wingate was killed at around 1 a.m. July 22. Wingate was traveling on Livernois Avenue with a passenger when they collided with another vehicle.

Wingate and his passenger got out of their vehicle and walked to a nearby gas station, where they allegedly were confronted by Lawrence James Davis, whom Detroit police said was at fault for the crash.

According to police, Wingate was struck by Davis, who allegedly continued to hit and kick Wingate after he fell to the ground, and then Davis fled the scene on foot. Authorities arrived on the scene to find Wingate lying unresponsive on the ground. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“The suspect was at fault, and he then attacked this victim,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig previously said. “It’s wrong, and anything like it is wrong. It’s just too much of this kind of violence in the city.”

Davis was arrested July 30 at an apartment building in the 23500 block of West Eight Mile Road. He was arraigned on an open murder charge the next day at the 36th District Court, where the court entered a not-guilty plea for him after he stood mute.

Davis’ case has since been bound over to the 3rd Circuit Court. His next court date is a pretrial hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 2.