Connectivity for Bloomfield Hills residents
Bloomfield Hills prizes itself on its large stately estates, rolling, tree-lined streets and the privacy it affords its residents. The quiet and safety the town assures those who live within its one square mile, many of whom are some of the most wealthy in the state, much less the country. The goal is to live there, and use the resources of other local municipalities, such as Birmingham's downtown and the strip centers in Bloomfield Township. The Bloomfield Hills City Commission is determined to keep it that way, despite a group of newer residents requesting a survey of residents' attitudes towards adding safety paths in the city on high traffic roadways to connect them to those communities, and for running and walking.
At its last city commission meeting, the commission, led by the forceful guidance of mayor Sarah McClure, long an opponent of safety paths, or sidewalks in layman's parlance, the discussion of a residents survey was ultimately shut down, or indefinitely tabled. The overriding logic – the vocal residents had not gone door-to-door in their neighborhood to solicit opinions about whether neighbors would be willing to support a special assessment district – where they as a neighborhood would be assessed to have a safety path put in their community and have to pay for it themselves. The residents expressed over and over again they were not looking to have it only in their neighborhood – or even in their neighborhood – but along high traffic areas of Woodward, Long Lake, Cranbrook, Opdyke and Vaughn roads, but the commission generally shut them down, the two groups having two separate conversations.
It's not the first time a group of residents has had the revolutionary idea of connecting the enclave to the outside world. In 2007, the then-city commission and some residents advocated for safety paths, feeling that it would improve the desirability of the city. But a large number of residents sent letters stating they didn't want the character of the city changed, and coupled with the high cost of adding approximately 14 miles of paths, the idea died.
In 2014, a question on safety paths was added to the citywide survey, and again, a majority voiced an opinion against. With a ballot for city commission this fall, perhaps it is time to place an advisory question before voters to get an updated and more accurate picture of community sentiment,
Without question, taxes would go up if safety paths were added to the city. Bloomfield Township has a dedicated millage to pay for its safety paths, a very successful project which has been repeatedly renewed. But other concerns, including ones about “intruders” or “outsiders,” and an increase in crime, are unjustified.
It's hard to rationalize the isolation to the community when driving down Woodward and almost daily seeing individuals trudging along the grassy sides of the road where a hypothetical safety path could be. Downtown has received requests from residents for years who would like to bicycle into Birmingham along paths, or people who enjoy walking and fitness.
Bloomfield Hills' beautiful surroundings are unquestioned. Safety paths would not disturb them – nor the tranquility the city enjoys. But the 21st century beckons. Quarantine is over. Connect and flourish even more.