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Planning department showcases its successful year

By Dana Casadei

If Patti Voelker, Bloomfield Township Director of Planning, Building & Ordinance, could have, she would have read every word of the planning department’s annual report – and shown its many illustrations – into the record at the Monday, April 8, meeting for the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees meeting.

Although she was mostly joking about doing just that, the pride she had while discussing the work completed this past year by her department was apparent. 

Voelker spoke about how all three divisions within the department had a consistent level of activity throughout 2023, and that there was a high level of activity occurring in the township either reflected through permits, applicants or enforcement activity during the year.

There was fluctuation in a few of the categories where there was a slight reduction in one area then an increase in another, such as a lower number of building permits for new residents but an increase of building additions.

While Voelker didn’t highlight every accomplishment of those three divisions, she didn’t have to, as the annual report does so for pages, splitting it up into each division – planning, building, and ordinance – and discussing the many accomplishments of each.

Starting with the planning division – where the planning commission, zoning board of appeals, and design review board all fall under – there were accomplishments ranging from the sheer number of site/façade improvements made, which took up 33 percent of everything completed by the design review board, to the planning commission’s accomplishments, including multiple site plan review and special land uses, and public hearings on items like the Maplewood Office Park rooftop addition; and a variety of home improvement and addition requests made in front of the zoning board of appeals, for everything from new fences to sports courts.

The building division completed thousands of inspections for commercial and residential uses throughout the year, and per week averaged 118 buildings inspections; 105 electrical inspections; 104 mechanical inspections; and 54 plumbing inspections. The building division also collected $2.6 million fees from a variety of permit types in 2023, and issued 40 new residential building permits, as well as 330 addition/alternation residential building permits, and 38 complete resident demolition building permits. 

In total, the building department issued 6,721 permits, an increase from 6,541 in 2022. This division performs inspections for the city of Sylvan Lake as well, something the township done since the fall of 2011.

The ordinance division dealt with 66 properties in 2023, a huge increase from 54 in 2022 and 30 in 2021.

The ordinance division issued 29 tickets in 2023, with violations within the zoning ordinance or open storage being the most common.

“We are very very fortunate to have outstanding boards and commissions that serve the township…exceptional and highly dedicated to review of the documentation as submitted,” said Voelker, who has been with the department for 21 years. “One of the best in the state, I think.”

The trustees sang the praises of all the department has done over the last year, approving the annual report 7-0 with zero hesitation.

Trustee Stephanie Fakih, who is on the zoning board of appeals, and trustee Neal Barnett, a member of the planning commission, both highlighted that the department’s staff, in part, is what makes being on that board and commission so enjoyable.

Township supervisor Dani Walsh acknowledged how much preparation there is for each of those meetings. Their innovation to think outside the box was brought up too, with Walsh commending Voelker and her team for always looking for ways to make the township better.


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