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would have to "grow up", with higher buildings, pursue more mixed use development (housing and commercial), and sell outdated public facilities to make room for more private investment.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.