top of page
  • :

Birmingham City Commission

Seven candidates are competing to fill three four-year seats on the Birmingham City Commission in the Tuesday, November 2, election.


The names of candidates David Bloom, Andrew Haig, Stephen Konja, Anthony Long, Elaine McLain, Katie Schafer and Lynda Schrenk will all appear on the ballot.


Candidates were asked by Downtown Newsmagazine to address a number of issues facing the city and their responses appear below.


DAVID BLOOM


Bloom earned his undergraduate degree in economics and international business from University of Michigan, and an MBA in marketing from Michigan State University, and is a purchasing analyst at Ford Motor Company. He is a member of Birmingham Citizens for Responsible Government.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


City officials and an outside planning firm have been working on what is known as the Birmingham Master 2040 Plan, envisioning what the city may look like in future years. Among the assumptions are that 2,000 new residents will occupy approximately 1,000 new living units. The Master 2040 Plan calls for the introduction of alternative housing concepts beyond just single family, allowing for more housing diversity. Have you been following the Master 2040 Plan? What is your position on diversity of housing types suggested so far? What about the concept of “neighborhood seams?”


Yes, I have been following the 2040 Master Plan. Birmingham has had difficulty with increasing housing diversity. It has been decreasing at the lower end with attainable housing and expanding to what could be termed unattainable housing. The 2016 plan called for increasing housing downtown by incentivizing residential on the top floor, but in part because of parking requirements, what we got were large and extremely expensive housing units affordable to only a very few. Stand alone multi-family housing such as the bankrupted Forefront development on South Old Woodward, The Pearl at Oak and Woodward with rents starting at $5,300 a month for a one bedroom unit, and The Bristol at the corner of Frank and Ann being offered at $738 per square foot for a 4,000 sq foot unit are also examples. As I have publicly expressed during the planning process increasing housing density along “seams” may be good for developers, but risks harming our neighborhoods unless it is done on a very limited basis and with extremely careful planning and controls.


Unimproved Streets Plan


A special committee has been studying the many unimproved streets in Birmingham and the committee report has been accepted by the city commission but elected officials still need to vote on whether they approve of the report in order for the plan to move forward. Do you support what has been submitted to the city council? Please explain.


Our neighborhoods have been suffering and need quicker action. This plan takes too long to implement. We have a AAA bond rating for putting up parking decks downtown to support developers, but we won’t bond to get the job done sooner in the neighborhoods. That said we have some beautiful neighborhoods with unimproved streets and residents may prefer the look and character of streets without curbs and gutters and a place to park on the easement between the street and sidewalk that are absent on streets with curbs.


Outside dining year around


During the first year of the pandemic the city relaxed some of the restrictions on dining out-of-doors at restaurants but has now returned to what city ordinances provide. The city is asking the public to offer their opinions on how outside dining should be handled in the future, including whether year around outdoor dining should be allowed. Tell us how outdoor dining changed during the pandemic and what you would support for the future?


It would be nice to have more outdoor dining in Birmingham and for longer duration. We also should take into consideration the availability of on street parking and noise if the dining is near residential units. I think we should also experiment with allowing outdoor dining to take place on weekends at Shain Park on a rotation schedule and that the city look into building a pavilion along the Bates Street extension area that Birmingham restaurants can rent/use on a rotating or lottery basis. Experimentation with food trucks at our neighborhood parks, at the Farmer’s Market lot, and adjacent Shain Park lot are also a worthwhile endeavors to try out.


Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


As new buildings have arrived and some buildings have expanded, there has been growing concern regarding the past practice of automatically allowing these buildings to become part of the current parking districts in the downtown area. How should the city be addressing this concern? Should there possibly be an impact fee on new and larger buildings to cover future parking needs in the downtown area? Can the concept of “shared parking” address some of the increased demand from new developments?


This is a great question and I am glad Downtown is asking it. One of the reasons for building and density growth downtown is that we have been giving away parking that doesn’t exist. This is continuing right now at an alarming rate. The issue is being ignored. We should not be permitting new development downtown without a required understanding and acknowledgement of where sufficient parking will be and who will be paying for it, preferably the developers. The shared parking concept – which has been discussed in terms of utilizing the same spaces for daytime commercial and nighttime residential uses - made a lot of sense pre-COVID. In a post-COVID world it may not work as well and needs to be carefully thought through.


Triangle District


There has not been much movement on the plans for the Triangle District in the city. Can you tell us how familiar you are with the Triangle District plans? As part of what is proposed, the plan includes two parking decks for the Triangle District. First, are they needed now and, if so, how should construction be funded? If assessing businesses is part of the funding, should businesses in the downtown area be assessed for parking deck construction on the other side of Woodward? Should the fund balance for the existing parking structures be used for the Triangle District?


Given that downtown is already overdeveloped, shifting to the Triangle District makes sense. This has been stalled for a several reasons. If taxpayers are going to fund or prefund more deck construction in Birmingham it should be in the Triangle. Having one or more decks in the Triangle could also relieve pressure on the Peabody structure and would be very useful when we need to repair or replace a downtown structure. Businesses on the downtown side of Woodward could possibly be tapped to help fund a Triangle garage where they are in proximity and it makes sense, but they should also get something in return like preferred permit pricing in the Triangle. Developing the Triangle also offers opportunity for mixed-use buildings and attempting to build attainable multi-family housing with higher density. Given the various property ownership issues in this area development will be tricky. Finding ways to connect to downtown with bridging walkways should also be explored. Engaging in one or more public private partnerships where everyone – especially the public – benefits could lead to a desired outcome. Advantages and disadvantages of using the existing parking fund for Triangle deck construction need to be thoroughly evaluated.


City of Birmingham budget


As property values rise, municipalities are prevented by the Headlee Tax Limitation Amendment from increasing revenues from property taxes beyond the rate of inflation or five percent, whichever is less. Birmingham in recent years has remained below the Headlee cap by about .3 mill. If the city does approach the Headlee cap in the future, do you think the budget should be reduced or would you favor asking voters for an over-ride on the Headlee cap?


We should do everything we can to spend carefully within our means and only consider an override as a last resort.


What do you consider your top three issues facing if elected to the city commission?


Focusing more time and effort on resident and neighborhood issues. We should be more open, accessible, and transparent to residents. We can do better. Managing the aftermath of the uncontrolled downtown building spree that was not supported with sufficient infrastructure.


What makes you qualified


I have a long and deep involvement in our community. I grew up here and attended Birmingham Schools. My involvement on the Citizens Sewer and Ad Hoc Sewer Committees resulted in improving infrastructure policy, saving homeowners millions. My analysis of the Plante Moran Police Consolidation Study revealed shortcomings that led to keeping our police department independent and our downtown station open. In 2009, I led the effort to save the Birmingham Eccentric from closure. Then I volunteered as a photojournalist and writer for several years. In 2014, I co-led the defeat of the $21.5 library demolition and reconstruction bond and spent the next six years working on the $2 million Birkerts and $2.5 million Youth Wing renovations and expansion improvements at a fraction of the bond cost. In 2019, I again helped protect taxpayers by working to defeat the $57 million NOW bond, and in Federal court successfully defended our rights to speak at city meetings. I am currently organizing and sponsoring a large art project with 40 artists from around the country to create a collaborative, 185-foot mural at the Library overlooking Shain Park. I have regularly participated in city commission, long-range planning, and budget hearing meetings.


ANDREW HAIG


Haig, North American Operations Strategy and Program manager at Continental Automotive, received a bachelor’s degree mechanical engineering from University of Sussex and masters in science in automotive engineering management from University of Hertfordshire. He currently serves on Birmingham’s Multi-Modal Transportation board.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


The original draft of the plan contained a vision, but not one reflecting that of the city and its residents. Residents made their sentiments clear with their feedback to the first draft. The summary of changes for the second draft as presented to the commission in April was a significant step in the right direction. Currently, smaller, more affordable houses are being demolished and replaced by large homes on small lots. These demolitions are happening at an alarming rate. Twenty-four percent of Birmingham is already condominiums and apartments. A push to create rental units is out of balance where I think we should be going. The first draft called for multi-family attached (apartments) along neighborhood “seams.” The resident reaction was almost unanimously in opposition. Birmingham is a small city that draws residents to well-established neighborhoods, each with its own character. Homeowners do not expect to have parts of their neighborhood rezoned to allow apartment buildings nearby.


Unimproved Streets Plan


Our city’s 26 miles of unimproved roads and the flooding that plagues many of them remain a nagging problem for Birmingham homeowners. There was a multi-year study into the issue that culminated in a lengthy report. However, the city still lacks a firm direction and funding mechanism to expedite the paving of these streets. Residents often differ on whether to pave with asphalt or concrete, with or without curbs. The city’s current one-size approach may not be the best approach.


We need a solution that shares the cost equitably. Property taxes for residents living on unimproved streets are assessed at the same level as taxpayers on improved streets. Residents on unimproved streets endure flooding, lack leaf pickup, and must pay for maintenance (cape-seal) of their streets. Meanwhile, their property tax dollars contribute to the repair and replacement of improved streets. Any solution needs to consider fixed-income seniors who would otherwise be saddled with expenses when they’re least able to afford them.


I live on an unimproved street destroyed by construction equipment and trucks. This issue is one I would make a priority. We cannot keep kicking it down the (wrecked) road.


Outside dining year around


Current zoning ordinances support outdoor dining, and the city has encouraged it for many years. I have no issue with restaurants operating outdoors year-round. To do so, they must continue to comply with ordinances that address safety, ADA-accessibility, street clearing and maintenance, fire codes, etc.

However, the interests of other downtown businesses also need to be considered. Parking downtown is limited. If the city were to allow additional permanent structures, less parking would be available in the parking district, and parking revenue would decline. It seems equitable that restaurants wanting an additional parking spot for outdoor dining should offset that loss in revenue to the city. Otherwise, restaurants would be unfairly subsidized by the parking fund while other businesses would not receive the same benefit.

Lastly, any expanded outdoor dining needs to be harmonious with the streetscape. Unfortunately, a blanket policy will not work because enlarged decks in some areas may be suitable, but not others.


Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


The parking system has a finite number of spaces, and that number is about to be reduced with the phase three reconstruction of S. Old Woodward. There is little shared parking, and very few buildings have on-site parking. The vast majority of businesses within the parking assessment district rely upon street or deck parking. Assessing a fee on new development may not be a solution. Instead, we may have to start requiring more on-site parking with each new large structure to alleviate the situation.

The city lacks a convenient connection between downtown and the Triangle District, where more parking decks are proposed. Any solution to the parking crunch facing the downtown cannot include encroachment into adjacent residential areas.

It is not a simple answer, and it needs more study as part of the revised plan for our future growth. It begs the question, “How much downtown growth is enough and what sort of a town do the residents want to see and sustain?”


Triangle District


I am somewhat familiar with the Triangle plans, but mainly in the context of the 2040 plan. The idea of two new parking decks in the Triangle and no real plan to connect them with Downtown requires further examination. Downtown is where the parking demand will be most significant in the foreseeable future. The proposed new development at 770 Adams indicates that self-parking development in the Triangle District is possible.

There are incremental steps underway to try to realign standards in the Triangle to enable growth. The 2040 Master Plan is still unclear what to do in this area. The Adams Square site merits careful consideration from the planning board for appropriate development. I will be a firm supporter of this investigation by our highly qualified planning board members.


City of Birmingham budget


The city receives about one-third of the property taxes residents pay – the balance goes to public schools. Currently, I do not see a need for a Headlee override with the current rate of property value appreciation and home sales.

Property tax increases are capped at the lesser of inflation or five percent. The “reset” in taxable value following the sale of a home and the continuing pace of teardowns/new construction has provided the city with a steady stream of permit revenue and growth of the city’s overall taxable value.

If these trends continue and Birmingham continues to exercise fiscal responsibility, we can maintain a healthy buffer against the “unknown unknowns” of the future.


Top three issues


Infrastructure. I have already inquired about applying for funds from the new federal infrastructure bill to address flooding and sewer backups. But flooding is a regional issue, and acting alone as a city will not resolve the wastewater system issues. Any sewer upgrades will involve unimproved streets.

The 2040 Master Plan. We must account for the impact on existing residents and homes to help us retain our quiet charm and character while permitting appropriate development.

Seniors. According to SEMCOG, the number of Birmingham homes with seniors over 65 will continue to grow through 2045 and will push to nearly 40 percent of households. Our senior center, NEXT, requires investment to accommodate this growth. Zoning updates are needed to promote ground floor remodeling and attached alternative dwelling units, also known as in-law suites.


What makes you qualified


I have attended nearly every city commission meeting for over three years. My understanding of the many issues facing the city today will allow me to step into the role of commissioner and contribute immediately. In my experience on the multi-modal transportation board, I have demonstrated my commitment and willingness to listen so that I can help solve issues for the benefit of Birmingham residents. I am hopeful and positive about the future for our community.


STEPHEN KONJA


Konja, the regional sales manager for Guaranteed Rate, has a finance degree from the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. Active on the Brother Rice Alumni board and Saint Regis Booster board, he has no previous government experience.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


Birmingham’s history of thoughtful planning has made our community one of southeast Michigan’s gems. I commend our city leadership for continuing that practice and ensuring the public’s ability to follow the process.

For all of us, the age of COVID has put a greater emphasis on the importance of finding all we need close to home. I believe most residents want Birmingham to remain an amenity-rich, safe, walkable community while simultaneously growing our diversity of businesses and people.

I am intrigued with a number of aspects of the Master 2040 Plan, including the concepts of intentionally creating spaces to live, work and play that “stitch” together particular areas of the city. As well, I am concerned that living in Birmingham remains accessible to young people and new families. Offering a variety of housing options is one way to support that priority.

It is important to keep in mind the purpose of the Master 2040 Plan is to provide a vision and an array of possibilities for the future, rather than a set prescription. As always, community engagement is fundamental to ensuring that any prospective development or project will be a good investment and a success for future generations to enjoy.


Unimproved Streets Plan


I support the Unimproved Streets Plan. Generally, myriad problems persist with gravel roadways from erosion (made worse by major rain events), ecologically troublesome run-off, and unreliable road conditions posing public safety and access issues.

Our residents who live on these roads are denied amenities other residents currently enjoy like leaf removal and street cleaning. Moreover, gravel roads pose challenges for future mobility improvements like bike lanes.

I am a strong proponent of smart, sustainable infrastructure investments. Improving our gravel roadways is a good idea for the public safety, our residents and the environment.


Outside dining year around


I am in favor of continuing the option of outdoor dining in the future. COVID demanded quick action by leaders on so many fronts; it simply was not possible to craft a comprehensive, detailed and entirely equitable plan for outdoor dining.

Clearly, some establishments were able to take greater advantage of it than others. Moreover, COVID reduced patronage to other businesses, allowing the city to compromise some parking or other service areas to accommodate the new structures.

Simply put, the current “rules” were an attempt to rapidly adapt in a crisis. They are not sustainable nor are they entirely equitable. They should be reviewed and revised in the near future.


Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


Our parking infrastructure needs a comprehensive plan to address our challenges in a fair, effective and sustainable way. In the long-term, a broad mobility strategy will support our downtown with greater patron density so our businesses can thrive while ensuring our residents and visitors will be able to park with relative ease.

In the short-term, it is clear that we cannot continue to rely on development-driven parking solutions, and adding more business and residential density to our current parking district is unsustainable.

I believe we need an enforceable policy with clear priorities that considers any strategy, whether shared parking, timed permitting, or another approach. The right strategy in the right places will ensure we retain the aesthetic of our downtown and neighborhoods, the value of walkability of our city, and certainty for future development investment.


Triangle District


Building cohesion between “east and west” is a major priority. The lack of parking has stymied business growth and improvement in the Triangle District and further fostered a “divide” in our city.

I do believe it should be a city priority to address the underutilization of this area while retaining the integrity of the district’s residential areas.

Not surprisingly, parking is a chief concern, and I do believe it should be a priority we address. It has been a number of years since the plan for the Triangle District was first drafted. A refresh of that plan to update assumptions and priorities could help guide common sense solutions that are equitable for all stakeholders.


City of Birmingham budget


I am not opposed to asking voters to fund programs or projects that are critical to our city or fit with the priorities of our residents, whether through a fee, tax or other revenue-generating proposal. That being said, as a homeowner and taxpayer myself, I am keenly aware of the tax burden borne by our residents. I am committed to both ensuring the public has a voice on revenue proposals and keeping our budget and finances in check.

Communities across the state of Michigan have seen their portion of state revenue-sharing cut dramatically. For some, retaining a great quality of life for their residents has been a challenge. Our “public goods” – parks, schools, public safety, libraries, infrastructure – are all funded in one way or another by taxpayers.

I believe that Birmingham’s residents want leaders who govern not through dogma but through a considered and balanced process. Sometimes that means leaders need to ask voters if they are willing to pay for the public goods and services their community needs or desires.


Top three issues


I anticipate that the top three issues facing the city of Birmingham and the next commission will be:


COVID recovery and our “new normal”: Many restaurants, retail and service provider businesses are still working to recover from the economic blow dealt by the pandemic. Moreover, our future planning and decision-making must necessarily contemplate that COVID may be with us for years to come.


Meeting our parking challenges with equitable and sustainable solutions: Parking is and will continue to be a challenge on a number of fronts. The city will need to look at a variety of strategies to craft a comprehensive plan that addresses short-term critical needs and provides a basis for long-term sustainability.


Smart infrastructure investment: More than ever, the federal and state governments are focused on infrastructure investment and Birmingham needs to be ready to leverage those priorities. Whether investing in green infrastructure to manage changing climate events, improving roadways, or addressing lead water service lines, we will need to coordinate these critical capital improvements to limit disruption to our residents and businesses. These next decades will see tremendous advances in mobility, “smart” utilities, and other infrastructure innovations. Birmingham needs to be ready.


What makes you qualified


Attending Brother Rice High School, Birmingham was my “second” hometown next to Farmington Hills. After graduating from Michigan State with a business degree, I began my career in Chicago. When I had the chance, I came back home. I had no doubt Birmingham was where my wife and I wanted to raise our two daughters, now 9 and 12.

I believe it is critically important for everyday citizens to engage with their community. For me, that means volunteering my time and expertise.

I have no interest in making politics my vocation. I am proud of the work I do, managing a large team of mortgage specialists who help families realize their homeownership dreams.

My background in finance and management, combined with my granular understanding of the real estate market and what makes communities great, will be useful at the commission table. I have a pragmatic approach to problem-solving and won’t need to play “catch-up” on fundamental issues like budgeting and the basics of development and planning priorities. I am committed to transparent and common-sense public service that will keep Birmingham a premier community in southeast Michigan.


ANTHONY LONG

Long is a partner at Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC, and the firm’s general counsel. He has a BA in economics and management from Albion College and a law degree from Michigan State University. He has been a coach/manager for Birmingham Little League teams. He has no prior government/political experience.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


I have studied the 2040 Plan, which contains thoughtful analysis and many suggestions that I support. The plan references information from SEMCOG, which projected that regional growth by 2040 may lead to 700 to 900 more families wanting to move to Birmingham. If this growth does occur, we must manage it in ways that bring the city together, rather than cause a divide or feelings that certain parts of the city are more important or desirable than others. I support the need for alternative housing concepts within the city in appropriate areas. Birmingham has successfully implemented alternative housing concepts for senior citizens (Baldwin House, All Seasons, etc.) to ensure that they have choices once they decide to move from their longtime Birmingham residences. I understand the consultant’s thought process behind neighborhood seams, but implementation as outlined thus far would be challenging, and for that reason, I understand that the planning board is not recommending moving forward with the plan. I think that the city commission can and should explore different options to achieve more housing diversity within the city, including as outlined in my discussion of the Triangle District below, and I look forward to being part of that process if I am fortunate enough to be elected as city commissioner.


Unimproved Streets Plan


I applaud the Ad Hoc Unimproved Street Study Committee (AHUSC) for the effort that they put into this report. I support the report, as well as the need to move away from unimproved streets to improved streets with curbs and updated sewers within the city. One recommendation I support is that residents would no longer be responsible for initiating this process. In 2015, I spearheaded a petition drive with residents and worked with the city commission to implement the paving of Cummings Street located in the St. James area of Birmingham. The street was the last unimproved roadway in that square mile area and had poor drainage, pooling water and large potholes at the edges. The result was a vast improvement to the area, property values and safety of the residents. The difficulty remains in how we pay for improving the 26 miles of unimproved streets and associated water and sewer infrastructure in Birmingham. I recognize that the city will have to do so in stages. I support the city commission’s effort to prioritize streets in the worst condition for improvement. A report is being completed which will assign a score to each street based on the condition of the sewers, water mains and road surfaces should help define next steps and a timeline.


Outside dining year around


I fully support exploring a year-round outdoor dining option in Birmingham. The pandemic brought many challenges to the city, its residents and businesses. The necessity of outdoor dining during the pandemic had an unintended benefit. It demonstrated how much the residents and non-residents enjoyed the outdoor dining option, and not just from a pandemic standpoint, but from a consumer standpoint. I have many fond memories of dining outdoors under heaters while it was snowing outside during the holidays, and after talking to residents, I know I’m not alone. By continuing to allow outdoor dining, we’re helping our restaurants appeal to wider audiences and increase their business while offering residents from Birmingham and neighboring communities another way to enjoy the city. The city commission has asked the planning board to investigate and fully explore best practices regarding possible year-round outdoor dining, taking into consideration the needs of adjacent retailers and also balancing private and public benefit. The planning board is also looking at other communities with regard to best practices for implementing an all season outdoor dining option within the confines of current ordinances, liquor license regulations, ADA requirements and fire codes, including possibly making responsible changes to allow for outdoor dining year round.


Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


Ensuring adequate parking in any city has always been a challenge and Birmingham is no different. The fact remains that Birmingham cannot continue to add additional buildings and development that require in excess of the available parking that the city currently has available. If the city continues to do so, we will reach a critical mass of available parking, which will, in turn, drive away residents and consumers to other areas that have readily available parking. I believe that we need to strike a balance between encouraging responsible retail development that includes plans for additional parking decks, via a fee charged to new developments that will utilize those parking spots and/or a requirement that new and expanded buildings include or add additional parking spots that the development will demand. Shared parking should be explored as a potential way to support new residential development downtown. Keeping in mind that not all parking is the same. The city has historically prioritized parking for businesses and offices. Perhaps we need to consider changing that thought process and prioritize parking for residents and consumers.


Triangle District


Property owners in the Triangle District have commented that the biggest impediment to new development of that area is having adequate parking. I believe that the Triangle District is a good location within Birmingham to build new housing and multi-family housing options. I believe that development within the Triangle District could help link downtown Birmingham to the Triangle District which would further benefit the city and its residents. I have read the current plans for the Triangle District and its proposal to revamp that area and bring it into align with the rest of downtown Birmingham. The plan calls for one of the two parking decks to be built as part of the initial phase, with the other deck to be built later in the plan. Assuming the plan as a whole is approved and the city is committed to fully implementing all phases of the plan, then I would be in favor building a new public parking structure in the Triangle District. Historically, properties were assessed to pay for a portion of the construction for our existing parking decks by a formula which considered distance from the proposed deck, property size, building size, distance from downtown, and parking demand from the type of business. These formulas changed over the years, but they assumed all the buildings in an assessment district would have some benefit.


City of Birmingham budget


I am not in favor of asking the city of Birmingham residents, who already pay some of the highest property taxes in the state of Michigan, to override the Headlee cap and the protections that it affords to taxpayers.


Top three issues


Address infrastructure issues leading to sewers and basement flooding; solve the parking challenges in the downtown; 2040 Plan revisions and implementation


What makes you qualified


I have lived in Birmingham for 26 years, and I have been an active community member throughout this time. For the past few years, I have been talking to my neighbors about the challenges the city faces, and I’ve realized many of us have the same concerns. Rather than just talking, I would like the opportunity to represent the voices of the community and help address the concerns I’ve heard time and time again, including property taxes, parking downtown, city sewers/flooded basements and new development. I’ve been fortunate to raise my two sons in Birmingham, and during my 12-year tenure as a manager and coach of their Birmingham based sports teams, I taught my players about fairness, trust, teamwork and problem-solving. In my 26 years as a practicing attorney, my clients and firm have relied upon me to represent them, advocate on their behalf, solve their problems and seek a fair resolution to their dispute. If I am fortunate enough to be elected to the Birmingham City Commission, residents can trust me to ensure fairness and use my background in problem solving and teamwork to represent the best interests of the Birmingham residents.


ELAINE MCLAIN


McClain is a lifelong resident of Birmingham who has been the chair of the Birmingham Area Cable Board for 15 years. She is a registered nurse with RN and BSN degrees from Mercy College. She is currently an independent Medicare producer with Integrated Insurance.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


I am familiar with the 2040 plan and have been following closely, long before the charrette postings. It is clear that we all need to appreciate the nuances of specific recommendations for housing options before defaulting to planning jargon or buzzwords. These can be misconstrued. The key is a balance, inclusion of all interested parties (residential, commercial, municipal) and respect for boundaries of all kinds.”Seams” seems to have devolved into a divisive terminology.


Unimproved Streets Plan


The Ad Hoc Unimproved Street Study Committee included citizens, leaders and field experts from all over our community. I support and have read the 145-page document. It is full of historical perspective, data and infrastructure information. In order for the city commission to move forward, it must be approved and an action plan put in place. Recent floods, health and safety concerns and tax base issues all apply. We have to be frank that it is both a critical issue for our residents, businesses and rights of way. There is never a good time for difficult decisions like these, but there is no time like the present to get something actually done right with complete transparency.


Outside dining year around


The expansion of outdoor dining during the pandemic was critical for safe public engagement with dining establishments. Now, during this transition period when indoor dining may have risks and businesses are still recovering, there is a reasonable accommodation of partial outdoor spaces that still allow for on street parking.


Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


It seems clear that avoiding the challenges of adding parking to the already confusing inconsistent infrastructure is a complex and emotionally charged issue. We have a series of committees and independent experts weighing in, but no answers yet. I personally need much more information and objective data from the city to assess future commitments.


Triangle District


I need much more specific data on the multiple Triangle District parking proposals. I am incredibly familiar with the area having been born in the heart of it. Traffic and congestion are of concern. The revenue stream is clearly confusing for residents and commercial properties alike.


City of Birmingham budget


We have been able to responsibly manage and reserve. I do not favor asking voters for an override of the Headlee cap. We have always been able to line item review and streamline. Again, this is the time to shine a light on all we do in municipal government to serve all citizens. Our choice of a long term city manager is key.


Top three issues


Professional municipal teamwork with transparency, responsible urban planning consultation and action oriented problem solving.


What makes you qualified


I am an independent candidate in this nonpartisan election. I am proud of my record as an appointed chairman of the Birmingham Area Cable Board for over 15 years. As a consumer and business advocate, I’ve led with civil and respectful discourse solving communication problems for all, with inclusion and distinction.


KATIE SCHAFER


Schafer is a pediatrician and partner at Bloom Pediatrics in Birmingham. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from University of Michigan and her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has served the city of Birmingham on the Ad Hoc Unimproved Streets Committee, 2018-2020, and on the Multi-Modal Transportation Board, 2017-present, as a pedestrian advocate.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


The 2040 Master Plan is an essential endeavor for the city. While this is truly a first draft, it is inclusive of the many ideas gleaned from hours of meetings with engaged residents, workshops, and public board meetings. The inclusion of multi-family housing in the
“seams” was a proposal by the consultant team, but the city commission and the planning board have communicated that such extreme plans are not appropriate for our city. Due to suggestions that these defined areas be significantly reduced or eliminated, further study is needed. I expect the second draft of the master plan will be further revised to define this concept more accurately in line with our city. To keep Birmingham as a thriving community, we will need to develop housing arrangements and programs that allow the aging in place of our seniors while simultaneously attracting young professionals and families. While the master plan has an intense focus on neighborhoods, its integration with past planning efforts in the Triangle District, the Rail District and the 2016 Downtown Master Plan will create a unified outlook for our future. I look forward to the opportunity to develop this document as one that will guide Birmingham’s future.


Unimproved Streets Plan


I was a member of the Ad Hoc Unimproved Streets Committee. I am very proud of the document we curated over the course of nearly two years during which time we received extensive education and background to aid us in drafting a plan. What resulted was a robust recommendation for addressing the 26 miles of unimproved roads with a methodical and thorough approach that was long overdue. The previous process by which a road could become improved that relied mostly on resident initiative was one of the main reasons I wanted to be on this committee. Keeping the city’s aging infrastructure updated, not just to today’s standards but much beyond, needs to be a city-driven initiative. Road improvements need to serve residents in this city for many years to come. This is a monumental task that will take time and significant funding to accomplish but its adoption and execution are paramount. I believe that the recommendations in our report should be approved so we can finally move forward on this long overdue and important undertaking.


Outside dining year around


Expanded outdoor dining allowed during the pandemic was well received by the residents and restaurant owners alike. I am pleased to know that the planning board is diligently working on a recommendation for the city commission to expand the current parameters and create standards for year-round outdoor dining. I expect that these recommendations will (1) keep residents, business owners and visitors safe; (2) meet the residents’ needs; and (3) meet the restaurants’ needs to remain creative and flexible. I hope this work will be completed as soon as possible. With cooperation, we will find the right balance. Paramount is ensuring the safety of our residents, business owners and visitors – making sure the sidewalks are barrier free, being mindful of taking over street parking with platforms, and defining design standards for the expanded dining. Things that I would hope to see in a planning board recommendation include the structure of these outdoor dwellings (ceilings, wall, heat – especially in the colder months), limitations on outdoor dining exceeding store frontage, and balancing indoor and outdoor seating so as to fulfill the promises made to the legacy license holders when the bistro ordinance was adopted.

Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


As our current system utilizes a “shared parking” approach, I would encourage new businesses that utilize the system during the off hours when demand is lighter so as to maximize the use of our existing decks. We are seeing this approach with the addition of RH as they demonstrated that they are busiest during the hours that our decks are at their lightest. I am very concerned about “impact fees” or additional assessments on new developments as they could very likely jeopardize future investment opportunities for our city. It is important to remember that all of our current parking decks are fully paid for and our system is debt free. All of the money for these decks came from the downtown property and business owners and users of the system. Tax dollars were not used to build the existing decks. Further, maintenance is paid by the user fees that are charged for permits and hourly parking. If a new structure were needed, these same people would be required to pay for it — not the taxpayer. As such, it would seem unfair to charge new development for prospective structures that they will again pay for when built.


Triangle District


The stagnation of the Triangle District Plan is not the result of disinterest by the city but a matter of challenging economics. Implementation of the Triangle District Plan will require parking. However, funding the purchase of property, along with the construction of any decks, requires further study. Instead of being able to capture some of the taxes that would have been paid to the county and related taxing authorities, the city will need to find a different method to fund these decks. Further, as the Triangle District is not part of the current parking authority, we should consider the utilization of a Corridor Improvement Authority to fund the parking needs in this area. Purchase of the property and construction of the decks should be funded using a combined funding strategy of special assessments of Triangle District businesses along with permit and user fees. It is not equitable to take money from the current parking system when the system was originally funded by the downtown businesses and they will not directly (or even indirectly) benefit from parking in the Triangle District (until there are easier ways to cross Woodward to make parking on one side and crossing feasible).


City of Birmingham budget


Managing the budget is one of the most important duties of the city commission. It is imperative that we continue to project what the city’s needs will be utilizing a five-year projection. From this projection, we can plan for issues years in advance. Each year, we are then able to make adjustments to keep our budget stable and prevent substantial year-to-year fluctuations. It also requires us to stick to our budget once it is adopted. While there are expenses that can arise that are unanticipated, it is important to limit fanciful wish list projects that haven’t been budgeted for in the current year. Instead, these types of expenses should be included in future budgets when they can be properly accounted for so as to prevent exceeding the budget and requiring increased taxes. Birmingham has been able to stay under the cap while taking good care of our city, and I see no reason why that practice won’t endure.


Top three issues


While the incoming city commission will face many challenging issues, I believe the overriding focus should always be on the continued maintenance, improvement, and beautification of our city. First, by improving infrastructure like that which is intended by the implementation of the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Unimproved Streets Committee. Second, to keep Birmingham the beautiful, safe and walkable community it is, ensuring that we maintain a high level of service to our residents while remaining fiscally aware. Third, ensuring and expanding these same services to our senior population to make certain they have the opportunity to age in place in the town they’ve proudly called home.


What makes you qualified


As a 14-year Birmingham resident, I understand why Birmingham is a special place to everyone who lives here. I’m deeply invested in the community where I’ve built a business and am raising my family. My energy and passion will help to shape Birmingham’s future for those proud to call it home. I will ensure homeowners have the opportunity for their concerns to be heard and addressed. As a parent, I will ensure Birmingham remains safe, fun, and diverse for children to grow and thrive by keeping parks and community events a high priority. As a physician and business owner, I am skilled at listening and problem-solving. At my medical practice, we focus on our community – our patients and employees, while we balance budgets and future planning. That experience will prove useful as I work with elected officials and city employees to keep Birmingham vibrant. As a committed member on city boards, I developed an understanding of the processes and procedures that make Birmingham a thriving city. And, as an independent thinker I will best be able to listen to issues I am presented and make sound decisions with my allegiance toward the city, its residents, businesses, and visitors alike.


LYNDA SCHRENK


Schrenk has a degree in marketing from Oakland University, and is a realtor with Hall and Hunter in Birmingham.


Birmingham 2040 Plan


Being a real estate agent for Hall and Hunter, a resident and parent with children who attended Birmingham Public Schools, I have been extremely interested in the Birmingham 2040 Master Plan and the future of our community.

I am enthused about the opportunity to increase the inventory of affordable homes for buyers who would like to live in downtown Birmingham and experience the walkability of our city, with the cultural array of art galleries, premium restaurants, along with our vibrant parks, library and Community House. Presently, the demand out paces availability. I continually get requests from buyers for reasonably priced condos at the center of town with one floor living, but the demand is hard to meet with the present supply. The Rail District was a new concept which has been a great success with mixed use living and work spaces. I would like to see that kind of creativity expanded into the other areas of Birmingham. The “seams” continue to be controversial and I am not an advocate for them in our mature neighborhoods, however, there are some other areas where they could be implemented.

Another movement gaining momentum is the initiative to pull zoning out of our local municipalities and let the federal government decide what is best for the design of our suburbs. I believe the voices of our citizens should decide our zoning and not a distant bureaucratic agency that is not attuned to our local needs.


Unimproved Streets Plan


I have been a homeowner in Birmingham for over 30 years. My initial experience with unimproved streets surrounding my house was extremely poor due to excessive flooded roads and sidewalks after even a mild rain. I was on the forefront of actively petitioning the city to bring improved streets with curbs and proper drainage to my neighborhood. I recognize the financial concern residents have regarding the cost of improvement as I too had those concerns. The decision to improve the streets should be collectively decided by the voices of the neighbors on a given block. I would also like to explore options to defray the costs and assessments on the homeowners for this project. The poor state of our roads does not reflect the high taxes residents pay to the city of Birmingham and they should be a top priority.


Outside dining year around


I was hugely supportive of outdoor dining for our restaurants this past year. It was a creative way to help them survive continual state-mandated restrictions. I was a frequent patron of this outdoor concept and really enjoyed the new perspective. Considering the demand to dine in Birmingham, I think we should allow for year-round outdoor dining provided it doesn’t impede access to surrounding stores and businesses. The variety of dining venues in Birmingham is a great opportunity to attract a diverse clientele to our town to not only enjoy our premiere restaurants but, also our unique shopping district.


Expanded buildings/new buildings’ impact on parking


Adequate parking is a challenge in Birmingham as we balance growth and development of new buildings at our center. In many cases it is cost prohibitive for new or expanded developments to incur the expense of underground parking. I understand the concern of surrounding residential neighborhoods that fear parking will spill over onto their streets. I would be open to a potential impact fee for these buildings to help fund our present and future parking demand. Also, the concept of shared parking should be explored as should partnering with private lots that have underutilized space.


Triangle District


I have followed and reviewed the Triangle District Plan and support the varied options and improved livability of that area. It will be an attractive destination with well organized gathering spaces and an enriched synergy with the surrounding neighborhoods. It will enhance our city’s affordability for first time buyers and Birmingham residents who wish to downsize, offering them a premiere lifestyle available in major cities. I’m excited to see this project unfold.


City of Birmingham budget


I believe in fiscal responsibility. As functionally obsolete houses are replaced with new homes that have increased values, our tax base has grown exponentially. This, along with attracting new businesses to our town, gives me confidence the city can meet the demands of the budget without increasing taxes.


Top three issues


Keeping our voice at a local level. Developments that support our local businesses creating vibrancy and relevance in our downtown. Fiscal responsibility.


What makes you qualified


Having lived and invested in Birmingham for over 30 years, along with my experience as a real estate agent, I understand the expectations that bring buyers to our town and why they choose to stay. This gives me keen insight into city plans that will affect our property values and tax revenues while maintaining the viability and relevance of our town. I believe community involvement is important and have enjoyed working on the Community House Tour fundraiser, being part of the team that built Booth Park, and implementing our much needed improved streets in my neighborhood. Vote for me as your city commissioner and your voice will be heard.

Commentaires


PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

DOWNTOWN: Unrivaled journalism worthy of reader support

A decade ago we assembled a small but experienced and passionate group of publishing professionals all committed to producing an independent newsmagazine befitting the Birmingham/Bloomfield area that, as we like to say, has long defined the best of Oakland County. 

 

We provide a quality monthly news product unrivaled in this part of Oakland. For most in the local communities, we have arrived at your doorstep at no charge and we would like to keep it that way, so your support is important.

 

Check out our publisher’s letter to the community here.

Sign Up
Register for Downtown's newsletters to receive updates on the latest news and much more!

Thanks for submitting!

Cover_April2024.jpg
RestReportsTomb.gif
StdUpToHate.jpg
BeachumNEW.gif
bottom of page