Commission reviews plans for 2024 and beyond
By Grace Lovins
Project plans were the topic of Birmingham’s long-range planning meeting on Saturday, January 20, during which city commissioners reviewed plans and project concepts for the 2024 year.
Commissioners started the day with a review of the city’s five-year financial forecast developed by finance director Mark Gerber and Plante Moran, the firm responsible for conducting the city’s audits.
A five-year forecast is a tool to help the city review what revenues and expenditures could look like using estimates and assumptions, according to Gerber.
Spencer Tawas from Plante Moran stated that the city’s revenue has increased nine out of the last 10 years, mostly from a growth in property taxes. Nearly 70 percent of Birmingham’s general fund revenue comes from property taxes, he said. Tawas noted a seven percent growth in revenue from 2023.
While the general fund revenue increased, Tawas explained that a significant portion of the funds will be used in 2024 for capital improvement projects planned by various city departments.
Following Gerber and Tawas’ presentation, director of public services Scott Zielinski briefed the commission on the department’s plan for implementing the newly adopted Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The city has already gotten a start on trail improvements and improvements at Booth Park. Now, they are determining which projects they are going to prioritize next.
Zielinski stated that the department is going to be working on revisiting Poppleton Park, developing a master plan for St. James Park with Birmingham NEXT and improving the playgrounds around town.
Overall, Zielinski explained that the city will be looking to add restrooms where they can, how they can incorporate mixed-age developments within the parks system and where new additions might fit, such as a community garden and updated playground equipment.
City engineer Melissa Coatta gave a presentation about changes to stormwater management and the anticipated capital improvement projects for 2024. According to Coatta, the city is looking to adopt the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner (OCWRC) standards for stormwater management that satisfy the requirements laid out by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. These include channel protection, water quality control and detention and flood control.
The OCWRC standards would apply to all city sewer systems. Exemptions were already established in the standards for developments less than one acre, single-family detached dwellings not a part of a common development and resurfacing paved areas where the base aggregate is not exposed, said Coatta. The city is also able to adopt the standards and remove exemptions.
Coatta also walked the commission through a number of capital improvement projects planned for 2024 through 2026. Most of the projects included improvement programs for sidewalks, streets and water and sewer mains.
This year, residents will see sidewalks improved through the city’s Concrete Program and Trip Elimination Program as well as streets through Asphalt Maintenance Program, Cape Seal Program and and Street Selected Projects. The city will also be improving sewer structures through the Sewer Rehabilitation Program.
Next up on the agenda, planning director Nick Dupuis walked the commission through the city’s plans for historic preservation. Birmingham has 82 designated historic resources, said Dupuis, most of which are residential, followed by commercial and then public property.
Dupuis said staff, along with the city’s historic district commission, are hoping to move toward a more proactive and holistic approach to historic preservation through a historic preservation master plan. The plan will include lots of data and public input, said Dupuis, similar to any other master plan that is created in the city. To kick off the process, Dupuis stated that a survey went live last week on Engage Birmingham to gather resident input on historic preservation.
The Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) also presented a long-range plan for economic growth presented by BSD executive director Cristina Sheppard-Decius. According to Sheppard-Decius' presentation, the BSD will focus on increasing the value of the district, expanding regional tourism, and diversifying the balance of businesses and products, among other goals.
With these goals, the BSD is planning multiple projects to improve pedestrian accessibility, safety and beautification, starting with the Pierce Street alleyway.
Residents can plan to see several updates throughout the city’s parking system. Parking director Aaron Ford explained that the city has taken over the parking pass operations, which was previously outsourced to SP+, and sent out the first invoices this month. Although Ford said there is a learning curve with the system, the city is anticipating the investment will be worth their while.
Another subject of note was the discussion surrounding the potential renovation of city hall or the relocation of the city’s police department offsite. Birmingham police chief Scott Grewe revisited what the commission had previously looked at relating to updates to city hall and offered considerations for potential offsite locations.
The updating of city hall had been talked about during multiple meetings in 2023, with concerns about the safety and security of employees and the public. Grewe noted that increased safety precautions are one of the top priorities for renovations along with security and accessibility.
Commissioners did not take any formal action during the long range planning session. Clinton Baller was absent from the meeting.