Safety path survey tabled in Bloomfield Hills
By Lisa Brody
A consideration to survey the residents of Bloomfield Hills as to their attitudes towards safety paths on high traffic roads was tabled at the commission meeting on Tuesday, May 11, as most commissioners felt the cost of a survey was not justified, and previous surveys reflected a desire to preserve the city as it is.
Mayor Sarah McClure opened the discussion by giving a brief history of safety paths in the city. She said that in 2007-2008, some city commissioners and residents advocated for safety paths, feeling that it would improve the desirability of the city. She said that at that time the city's engineers, Hubbell, Roth & Clark (HRC), designed for 14 miles of the city, including for Woodward, Cranbrook, Long Lake, Vaughn and Opdyke.
“Over 600 residents sent letters stating they did not want to change the character of the city, did not want the loss of tree canopy or the loss of the city's historic character,” McClure said. Nor, she said, did they want to bear the large cost, “millions of dollars, born by 1,200 households. Soon after, the planning committee voted 8-1 against it.”
In 2012, she said, the city did a citywide survey and included a question on safety paths. “Again, the results were pretty clear. Seventy percent were very or somewhat against, and again it died,” she said.
About a year ago, McClure said, some residents along Kensington Road to East Hills Middle School requested a safety path in that area. The city commission recommended they do a special assessment district, and HRC prepared an estimate of $2 million. “The petition never convened,” McClure said.
She said that at the April 2021 meeting, “those residents, along with some other residents, requested a survey because they said the composition of the city has changed. As in the past, the conversation got heated, and we decided to put the matter on the agenda.”
City manager David Hendrickson said a citywide mailed survey would cost $19,000. It would not include engineering or construction costs. “It would just be the costs to develop questions, mail and mine the data,” he said.
“In my opinion, most residents have not changed their opinion,” McClure said. “We've worked very hard to maintain the character and the long-term financial stability of the city. Not every community has to be the same.”
“After the last meeting, I spoke to several residents who were against this,” said mayor pro tem Susan McCarthy. “The only way we're going to do the survey is it has to be professional. It has to show all sides. We would have to include taxes – we only have a $11 million budget. We would have to state where we would place them. I think it's worth it to know how much it will cost and how much taxes will go up.”
“Personally, I support safety paths in select areas, providing some pedestrian access,” said commissioner Brad Baxter. “I do believe attitudes have shifted over time.”
“I have to be convinced as to why I would impose such a big change on the infrastructure from just a few comments from residents. I would not be in favor of a survey at this time,” said commissioner William Hosler.
Public comment showed a mix of opinion, from concerns over proposed costs, privacy, maintaining property values, and the potential of an increase in crime. It was also noted that with an almost 20 percent turnover of homes in the last five years, many to younger homeowners who appreciate fitness and access to green spaces.
“You need to be open to new residents and new ideas,” said one resident. “Lots of old residents will use safety paths.”
It was pointed out by a caller that Franklin Village, similar in demographics and topography, had just approved a vote on May 4 to amend their charter to extend safety paths along Franklin Road and Thirteen Mile.
McClure felt the residents who wanted the safety paths should first canvass their neighborhood for a SAD “to demonstrate some interest before we spend $19,000 for a survey on everyone.”
The residents explained they were interested in high traffic areas of the city, not just their neighborhood, but the proposal was tabled until residents pursue it further.