Farmington Hills planning commissioners unveiled a proposal Monday that would make the area of Orchard Lake, from 12 Mile to 13 Mile more pedestrian friendly.
Planning consultant Rod Arroyo laid out the vision, which would include creating areas for "mixed use" development, such as 3-4 story buildings with retail on the bottom floor, and office or residential uses above. Buildings would be moved closer to the front lot lines, with parking in back. Council members questioned whether that would drive traffic into residential areas; suggestions included diverting some parking to the side or underground parking.
Arroyo said the plan also includes "the potential for a narrow, landscaped median" to calm traffic and help pedestrians cross the wide expanse of Orchard Lake.
"It's quite a significant change from what it is today," he said.
Planning Commission chair Christopher McRae told city council members during a study session that the commission wasn't ready to hold a public hearing on the proposal to add zoning overlay districts.
"This is looking at a major thoroughfare in the city," he said. "We want to have, as much as possible, the right information out there for what we're looking at."
He said overlay districts would not replace the existing zoning, but would provide "incentives for development". The city isn't developing properties or compiling properties for development, he added.
McRae said the proposal is designed to implement the goals of a Master Plan, approved in 2009, which include making the area more pedestrian friendly, encouraging development and allowing consolidation of unrelated sites. Public input was taken during "open house" meetings for residents, business owners and developers, he added.
City manager Steve Brock said reconstruction of Orchard Lake between 13 and 14 Mile is planned four to five years out; the 12 to 13 Mile stretch could be as far as 10 years into the future. A roundabout will be constructed at Orchard Lake and 14 Mile/Northwestern two construction seasons from now, he added.
Planning commissioner Paul Blizman noted that timing redevelopment with those projects is important. "We've seen communities where construction has killed businesses, and that's the last thing we need to do," he said.
Mayor Barry Brickner said the proposal could encourage the type of development that attracts more young people, which is in line with the city's goals.
McRae said the Planning Commission will discuss the proposal at a future meeting before bringing the proposal to a public hearing, and there would be plenty of opportunity for residents to comment.
"The last thing we want is to get to the last step and have people tell us, we didn't know anything about it," he said.