Farmington Residents Consider Future Options, from Status Quo to Merger

Consultants leading a Wednesday visioning session urge residents to think about giving officials a final answer on a merger with Farmington Hills.

It's time to call the question of whether Farmington should merge with Farmington Hills, consultants told 50 Farmington residents gathered for a Wednesday visioning session at city hall. 

The long-debated move is part of a maximum growth strategy presented with other options during the 2-hour meeting. While the first visioning meeting held last month centered around big ideas, the second focused more on specific alternatives. 

"We really want to get a handle on where you think Farmington should go in the future," said Aaron Domini of OHM Advisors. 

After a review of the 1998 vision plan and current data, participants ranked their preferred rate of growth, in a range from status quo to moderate to maximum. The average answer landed between moderate and maximum growth, with a slight move toward moderate growth by the close of the meeting.

OHM Advisors consultant Jim Houk explained that maintaining status quo would require an increase in property values, an increase in taxes and other measures to keep the high level of services and support the type of "boutique" retailers now common in the community.

Moderate growth, Houk said, would maintain the city's character, but would have to include expanded housing options, an increased number of events and reinventing the city's "brand". The city would have to "grow up", with higher buildings, pursue more mixed use development (housing and commercial), and sell outdated public facilities to make room for more private investment.

Changed needed in rental housing 

Getting to maximum growth would mean a broader range of housing, significant parking facilites, significant public and private investment, and growing the community's boundaries to create a bigger market for downtown Farmington.

Growth at that level would involve the controversial consolidation with Farmington Hills. 

"I think it's now time as part of the visioning process to put that to bed, one way or the other," Houk said. 

He also pointed out that growing demographics of young adults and "empty nesters" are looking toward rental housing not to save money, but as a lifestyle choice. The city's aging multifamily complexes probably won't appeal to them, Houk said. 

Houk and Domini recorded questions and comments from the audience that will be brought back to the next public visioning session in May. In the meantime, residents who have indicated they want to be more involved in the process will have the opportunity for more discussion in small groups on April 24. The next large task force meeting will be held May 1. 

To keep up with information about meeting locations and other information, follow the visioning process on the city's website and on Facebook.

Patrick T March 29, 2013 at 11:33 AM
As a participant, I found it strange that Farmington residents in the informal poll appeared to support more-than-moderate growth, even with the understanding of its definition of 3- to 5-story buildings downtown, and the recommendation of "maximum" growth coming with a merger, which had many vocal opponents. There must have been a couple high-voters, to balance out my more minimal opinion. Something tells me the next few meetings will be pretty well-attended!
Josh Klein March 29, 2013 at 04:43 PM
As someone who voted for more than moderate growth, I did definitely get the sense that people would like Farmington to have a more active and vibrant downtown. At the table I was sitting at I glanced over and saw that most people were in the 6-8 range, which jives with what the average of the group ended up being. I think a merger would definitely be controversial. I would potentially be worried that a combined FH/Farmington may not pay as much attention to the downtown area as it should. But the combined FH/Farmington library has done a good job with the downtown library branch and other combined services have been good, so perhaps my concerns are baseless, but I think it would need to at least be addressed. The larger tax base of a combined FH/Farmington could also potentially mean a lot more investment into the downtown too.
Michael Ritenour March 29, 2013 at 06:14 PM
I was there and I agree with all the above comments. The sense among the participants was that we absolutely must preserve the historic feel and communal feel of the downtown, but focus on provide more and better draws for people in and out of Farmington proper. The money will follow the traffic.


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