Gordon Matson, of Oak Park, waves a rainbow flag during Ferndale Pride June 2.

Gordon Matson, of Oak Park, waves a rainbow flag during Ferndale Pride June 2.

File photo by Brandy Baker


Take a look back at key Woodward Talk stories from 2018

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 27, 2018

 Courtney Wooten holds one of her chickens, ElChickadora, in front of her coop while her other hen, Olivia, stands at her feet June 25. Backyard chickens was a topic in Berkley and Huntington Woods this year.

Courtney Wooten holds one of her chickens, ElChickadora, in front of her coop while her other hen, Olivia, stands at her feet June 25. Backyard chickens was a topic in Berkley and Huntington Woods this year.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Joanna Palazzolo pins husband Vincent Palazzolo’s badge to his uniform during a ceremony for his new role as chief of the Ferndale Police Department Sept. 18.

Joanna Palazzolo pins husband Vincent Palazzolo’s badge to his uniform during a ceremony for his new role as chief of the Ferndale Police Department Sept. 18.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

 More than 800 Ford Mustangs come through Mustang Alley during the Woodward Dream Cruise in Ferndale Aug. 18.

More than 800 Ford Mustangs come through Mustang Alley during the Woodward Dream Cruise in Ferndale Aug. 18.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 An audience at 299 W. Saratoga St. enjoys the Reefermen during the second annual Front Porch concert event in Ferndale June 23.

An audience at 299 W. Saratoga St. enjoys the Reefermen during the second annual Front Porch concert event in Ferndale June 23.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Artist Brandy Roels, of Berkley, draws a picture of her dogs, a beagle terrier mix named LuLu and a pitbull terrier mix named Daisy, during this year’s Berkley Street Art Fest July 14.

Artist Brandy Roels, of Berkley, draws a picture of her dogs, a beagle terrier mix named LuLu and a pitbull terrier mix named Daisy, during this year’s Berkley Street Art Fest July 14.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 Berkley High School students rally in the school’s courtyard during the National School Walkout to protest gun violence March 14.

Berkley High School students rally in the school’s courtyard during the National School Walkout to protest gun violence March 14.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Former Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace is one of three grand marshals for the Berkley Cruisefest Classic Car Parade Aug. 17.

Former Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace is one of three grand marshals for the Berkley Cruisefest Classic Car Parade Aug. 17.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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

 

La Salette School project rejected; development up in air
The development of a project at the site of the former Our Lady of La Salette School, 2219 Coolidge Highway, continued into 2018, but might’ve reached its end.

The city of Berkley long discussed plans for “The Berkley,” a 130-plus unit project developed by Berkley-Coolidge LLC, which was trying to meet standards for approval from both the city’s Planning Commission and the City Council.

The Planning Commission ultimately recommended denial of the project to the City Council, and the council voted to reject The Berkley at its July 16 meeting.

Mayor Dan Terbrack said at that meeting that, while he applauded the developer’s persistence in working on the project, the size and scale was “just quite simply too large to align with our vision for Coolidge.”

After the plans died at the meeting, nothing regarding the project officially has returned to the city. However, both the developer and city officials said in October that there was a meeting on conceptual designs.

Steve Friedman, a representative with Berkley-Coolidge, said at the time they had engaged with a new architect for the project and incorporated design changes that were presented to the mayor and the planning staff.

“We’re actually waiting for them to get back to us to give us their input and some direction as it relates to a couple other issues,” he said. “We’re looking forward to that happening shortly so that we can attempt to restart the process and get this project underway.”

Community Development Director Tim McLean said at the time the designs were purely conceptual and, at this point, he thinks there would need to be additional conceptual discussions before Berkley-Coolidge determines whether or not it wants to proceed with an application.

“It’s a similar project,” he said of the conceptual designs. “They’re looking to do multifamily development. I think the applicants really took to heart some of the concerns that both the Planning Commission and City Council had with previous proposals, which was the height of the building and mass of the building.”

McLean could not be reached for comment by press time on if another meeting has taken place between the city and developers.

 

Councilman resigns following hit-and-run
Right at the beginning of the year, then-Berkley City Councilman Alan Kideckel was involved in a hit-and-run accident at approximately 2:09 a.m. Jan. 1 in the area of Oakshire Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

According to the Berkley Public Safety Department, a white Mazda with two people inside — one of whom was pregnant — was struck by a vehicle that failed to stop at a stop sign.

Berkley officers were able to find a Toyota Camry in a driveway that had damage to its front end, and they reportedly were able to match pieces from the accident scene to the vehicle. A Law Enforcement Information Network search showed the Camry belonged to Kideckel, according to police.

Officers tried to contact Kideckel that night, but their knocks at the door went unanswered. According to police, Kideckel reached out the next day and came to the Public Safety Department to discuss the accident. The public safety report states that Kideckel told police he did hit the Mazda, but he thought it continued to drive, so he left the scene as well.

After news of Kideckel’s accident broke, he resigned from the Berkley City Council Jan. 29.

Kideckel pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He also had a charge of failing to yield — a civil infraction — dropped by the state prosecutor. Judge Derek Meinecke, of the 44th District Court, sentenced Kideckel June 8 to 50 hours of community service and $1,125 in fines.

“I regret my decision of that night,” he said at the sentencing, while also saying that he regretted not getting hold of the police sooner. “I’m sorry for everything.”

After his resignation, the Berkley City Council appointed Bridget Dean as Kideckel’s replacement March 5.

 

Como’s Restaurant sold to new owner
In 2017, Como’s Restaurant was forced to shut down by the Oakland County Health Department for repeated health code violations.

While previous owners claimed they were working on reopening, Como’s remained closed going into 2018.

At the start of the new year, a website showed a property listing for the 22812 Woodward Ave. site with a sale price of $4 million. The nearly 8,000-square-foot building has been occupied by Como’s since 1961.

The building sat vacant for several more months until, on June 6, the owners of Peas & Carrots Hospitality — Chef Zack Sklar, Jim Bellinson and Josh Humphrey — announced in a press release that they were purchasing Como’s and keeping the old name to pay homage to the restaurant.

“Ferndale is socially liberal, inviting, and aligns with our company’s mission of acting as a melting pot for an eclectic group of people,” Sklar said in a statement. “We love that Ferndale wants to remain Ferndale and values those family-owned style restaurants. Even as we have grown, we’ve managed to retain that sense of belonging, and we know that Peas & Carrots Hospitality is a great fit for the Ferndale neighborhood.”

Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy said the city is excited to have this prime location come back to life and that though Ferndale had nothing to do with the sale itself, the city and previous owner, George Grego, did work together, and the city helped potential buyers with questions about all the different zoning implications and what’s possible on the property.

“We’re very excited to see the pilot light go back on in there,” Twardy said. “That building was in need of a refresh. I can’t share any details at this point, but I can say it looks like they’re about to put a substantial investment into the exterior of that building, and it’s going to look great. We’re very excited about that.”

Berkley residents approve infrastructure millage, reject community center proposal

In the Nov. 6 election, Berkley voters approved a capital improvement project millage and rejected a bond proposal for a new community center.

The millage will levy 2 mills for 10 years, from 2019 through 2028. According to the ballot’s language, the money raised, which will be approximately $1,142,783 during the first year, will be used “to acquire and construct capital improvements for the City, including roads, streets, water, sewer and other capital improvement projects.”

City Manager Matt Baumgarten said at the time that the millage would not appear on residents’ taxes until July.

“We’ll be able to start the engineering work, design the projects in advance of that, but we won’t be able to realize the cash flow for construction until after July of 2019,” he said.

Under the rejected community center bond proposal, an amount of $15,375,000 would have been borrowed, payable in not to exceed 21 years, to pay for a new building.

“Certainly, we thought we had something that could be a gem in the community, but this is why you ask the residents for their guidance,” Baumgarten said at the time.

Baumgarten said the next steps will be figuring out what changes and tweaks the city could make to its community center proposal, and to see if the city can find something that is more agreeable to the residents.

“The buildings don’t get younger,” he said. “The conditions of those buildings, they’re still 17 years older than they were ever built to be. We still want to provide a broader range of activities to the community. We still want to be able to host events that suit the tastes and the preferences of all of our residents, instead of just, you know, younger children and the senior population.”

Earlier in the year, the City Council considered putting another proposal on the ballot: a bond proposal for renovations at City Hall and the historic Fire Hall, which was expected to cost around $4.5 million.

The council decided not to go through with the proposal, as there was worry that there would be too many proposals on the ballot, and that might sway citizens to not vote for any of them.

 

After scare, Rackham Golf Course finds site manager
In March, there was concern that Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods would not be opening on time for a new golf season.

At its March 13 meeting, the Detroit City Council deadlocked 4-4 on a vote for a management contract with Signet Golf Associates II Inc. on the site, along with the Chandler Park and Rouge Park golf courses. The previous contract with site manager Vargo Golf Co. was set to expire March 22.

Detroit Chief Procurement Officer Boysie Jackson said at the time that the contract would allow the city to make capital improvements so the sites would be up to standards it felt the courses needed to meet. He also said the plan moving forward was to sell Rackham, located at 10100 W. 10 Mile Road.

“We are looking to sell it, but we’re not here today with a plan,” he said at the time. “We don’t have one yet. Even anything to put in front of you to vote on.”

Potentially selling Rackham wasn’t a popular decision with some members of the council.

“Rackham is one of the best moneymaking golf courses the city has. And for some reason, I can’t get it. … Why do we always want to sell our best assets? I don’t get it,” Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones said at the meeting. “We did the same thing with parking lots and look what’s going on (in) downtown Detroit. We start selling parking lots. Everything the city can make some money on, the city wants to sell it to somebody else.”

Jackson stated in an email at the time that there was no proposal to sell Rackham and the contract they submitted to council included a significant capital investment into the course over the next two years.

“If there were to be a proposal to sell Rackham at a future date, it could not proceed without the approval of City Council,” he said.

Huntington Woods City Manager Amy Sullivan at the time said that there are deed restrictions on the golf course that were placed on the property by the Rackhams, one of which is that the property has to be maintained as a golf course.

“It’s been a part of Huntington Woods since then as a golf course and we’d like to keep the status quo,” she said. “Plus, from a legal perspective, it has to remain a golf course. There isn’t any room for debate on that.”

After the stalemate vote because of a missing member, the Detroit City Council held another vote the following week on March 20. This time, the contract passed 5-4.

The contract’s terms were a two-year deal for $180,000 total. There was concern that if a contract wasn’t approved before the deal with previous site manager Vargo Golf Co. expired on March 22, the golf courses would have to be closed.

Members of the Detroit City Council were concerned with how Signet was chosen to manage the courses by Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration over other candidates. Jones said she was concerned with how the Golf Advisory Board was kept out of a decision.

Huntington Woods City Commissioner Jules Olsman, who sits on the Golf Advisory Board, said at the time that Detroit ignored the whole purpose of the golf board and he had no idea how the city came to select Signet. Jackson said the Golf Advisory Board was never intended to be on the evaluation committee and was made up of mostly non-city-of-Detroit employees.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see whether they’re capable of managing these golf courses,” Olsman said.

 

Ferndale police promote new chief, department undergoes review
The Ferndale Police Department saw some unexpected developments this year, which began with the retirement announcement of former police Chief Timothy Collins April 9 after 40 years.

But the following day, the city announced the firing of a 25-year veteran of the department for “continual and repeated rule and regulation violations,” according to a statement. The allegations made against the unnamed officer included unbecoming conduct, insubordination, inattention to duty and incompetence.

It was not known if the termination of the police officer had anything to do with Collins’ retirement. Mayor David Coulter declined to answer at the time if the City Council had asked Collins to submit his resignation.

The firing of the officer and Collins’ departure followed several departmental incidents in recent years, including a now former Ferndale officer’s arrest and no contest plea to misdemeanor assault and battery for using excessive force during an arrest; an incident where a Roseville police officer, suspected of drunken driving, was driven home instead of arrested; and a WDIV television report that Collins did not ticket a 70-year-old motorist and mother of a Detroit police officer who reportedly registered twice the legal limit in a sobriety test.

After the incidents and new developments, the city announced in the spring that independent firm KRW Associates would review the department’s procedures and policies. During this time, Vincent Palazzolo was selected as the interim police chief, and he later would be appointed the permanent head in September.

The department was given 25 recommendations by KRW.

Some of those recommendations from KRW include creating a mentoring program for employees; creating a citizens advisory committee; formally reviewing critical incidents; updating its use-of-force training and policies; and reviewing and updating department policies, including posting them online.

Some points, both positive and negative, included the lack of diversity in the force, an erosion of trust between citizens and the department, excellent response time for calls, friendly officers, and the department needing to improve its relationship with the media.

The city was happy with the results of the report.

“It was exactly what we needed,” City Manager April Lynch said at the time. “We knew we already had a very strong department, but we knew that we had room for growth and development, and I think that their perspective was really helpful in helping us build on our foundation to make us even stronger.”