The Costco Doctrine

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a decade since the City of Auburn Hills adopted its Architectural Design Policy.   In Michigan, municipalities are not permitted to mandate specific architectural styles or materials; however they can strongly suggest preferences through master plans and policies.  So, that’s what we did.

Few people know that the “tipping point” for this change was the Costco store on Brown Road.  In February 2000, the company proposed to erect a metal pole barn-looking building on the site.   The building design was typical for them and not bad.  It represented their thrifty theme … ‘come to our warehouse where you can buy bulk items at low prices.’   Needless to say, the City Council was not impressed.  In an unusual move, they tabled the project and formed an Ad-Hoc Committee to review alternative architectural styles.   Eventually, all parties agreed with the building façade that you see today.

After the Costco review, staff began to ask companies to upgrade their buildings by using more durable and attractive materials like brick and stone, in lieu of cheaper materials such as simulated stucco panels called EIFS or Dryvit.   This change inevitably cost developers more money and some resisted (even though they were constructing similar higher quality buildings in other locations across the country).  We informed the Planning Commission and City Council of the battle that was happening behind the scenes.  We asked them to formulate a policy stating what they wanted new construction to look like.   As a result, Auburn Hills adopted its Architectural Design Policy on September 19, 2002.  We internally call it the “Costco Doctrine” since that project changed how we look at business.

It is interesting to drive around town and survey the difference in appearance between many of the non-residential buildings built before and after the Costco project.   It is a legacy of quality that we take great pride in.

The Costco Doctrine

Good to Know They Are Here

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Did you know that a 24-hour emergency and specialty medicine hospital is located in the City of Auburn Hills?   Well, those who have had a very sick pet can tell you exactly where it is.

My Dog – Lulu

Michigan Veterinary Specialists is located at 3412 E. Walton Boulevard, next to the YMCA.   The state-of-the-art hospital will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in Auburn Hills this year.  They provide specialty services via referral from family veterinarians.  Pets in their care are typically quite ill or are receiving an assessment for specialized care, such as ultrasounds or tests similar to what humans may receive.

The hospital is one of a select few in Michigan that provides advanced treatment in areas such as ophthalmology, cardiology, neurology, dermatology, radiology, internal medicine, surgery, oncology, and emergency care for animals.

Although I hope I never need their services for my dog Lulu, it is reassuring to know that such talented veterinarians are located here in town.

Good to Know They Are Here

Casting a New Vision

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

We are getting excited!  The Planning Commission will gather again this Thursday with the community in the Downtown to discuss a new direction for properties on both sides of Auburn Road, between I-75 and the Clinton River Bridge.

Last November, folks in that area told us that they wanted to be included in the Downtown.  Many felt like their neighborhood was disconnected and forgotten.  Like a line was drawn in the sand and they were left out.  Interestingly, their homes are zoned for industrial use and have been that way for over 50 years.  The problem is that their lots are small and no one is coming to buy up all their properties to create an industrial park.  The current zoning does not allow for them to add-on or renovate their homes.  They gave us clear direction:  “We want to be a residential neighborhood … We want to be connected to the Downtown, not an afterthought.”  The Planning Commission agreed.   A new vision was needed.

We invite and encourage all who may be interested to attend the meeting on Thursday, March 1st at 7:00 p.m. at Fire Station No. 1 in the Downtown.   Also, come see some realistic redevelopment ideas for the land west of the Clinton River Bridge.  The concepts have been designed to connect the neighborhood with the Downtown, create a sense of place, and improve property values.   You don’t have to live in the area to participate.  Come learn more about city planning and your community.

In Auburn Hills, plans and visions like this one don’t just sit on a shelf.  Things get done.  So, you can see why we are so excited.

Casting a New Vision

More Than Just a Mess

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Hoarding has become a hot topic.  It is the subject of at least two cable TV shows where professionals team up with friends and relatives of a hoarder to try to help them. However, in real life it takes more than friendly persuasion and an hour of TV time to solve the problem.

Hoarding is not laziness or packrat-type behavior.  Instead, it is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder that results in people acquiring a large assortment of items and failing to discard what is actually useless or of little value.  Their living spaces then become so cluttered that they can’t be used for their intended purposes.

Unfortunately, there are times when hoarders become a neighborhood problem, particularly when the collection of “stuff” spills over from the inside to the outside of their home.  Often the Code Enforcement Division is called upon to remedy the problem.  Realizing that the situation involves behaviors that the hoarder often cannot control, we take a slow and even response to attempt to convince the person to clean up their property.

Sometimes this is not enough and we must take the next steps involving tickets, court appearances, and even court ordered clean ups.  This approach is always a last result as it is very costly for the City and causes emotional distress for the hoarder.  Unfortunately, within the last five years, several properties in Auburn Hills have been ordered by the Court to be picked up.  Multiple commercial dumpsters filled with debris have been removed from at least three locations during that time.

Hoarding is a serious, personal problem for a small segment of the population.  When their disorder becomes a problem affecting the entire neighborhood, we are called upon to handle the situation.  We do not do it for entertainment in front of the TV cameras, but for the good of the community.

More Than Just a Mess

The Other Side of the Counter

Posted by – Elizabeth Brennan, Executive Assistant

I love my job!  My main focus in the Community Development Department is to oversee our permitting system and ensure we provide a high level of customer service.  This is a very interesting and rewarding assignment for me due to the time I spent on the “other side of the counter” in the private sector.

Prior to joining Auburn Hills, I worked for a small design/build firm.  As typical of a small company, my responsibilities encompassed anything and everything related to customer happiness; from marketing our architecture and construction services, right down to applying for permits.   When working with municipalities, I personally had my share of experiences with what I call the “old government mentality” … no sense of urgency, coupled with an inflexible attitude.  In those moments, it always surprised me.  But, not in a good way.

Customers remember experiences, both good and bad.  It colors not only their anticipation of future dealings with an organization, but the organization as a whole.  Our staff keeps this in mind as we work to continually refine and streamline our processes.  We all strive to provide accurate, fast, and friendly services.  We do it as a team and get a big kick out of exceeding people’s expectations.

So, it is our goal to provide the very best municipal government experience ever.  We do it as if we were on the “other side of the counter.”

The Other Side of the Counter

Working Together for Michigan

Posted by – Laurie Johnson, Economic Development Coordinator

Economic Development is all about partnerships.  In many ways it is like the working of your body, your brain cannot exist on its own.  It needs the blood running through it, which is transported through the veins, and so on, but to thrive; all parts must be in good working order.

At this time that is what the State of Michigan, along with the Counties, the local governments, the schools, the businesses, the non-profit organizations, and the people of Michigan have been coming together to do.  We are working together to bring Michigan back to a thriving State in good working order for business, for education, for living, and for making a living.

We started with collaboration of minds and spirit to shift the business climate and the way we used to do things to a more purposeful directive with all of us moving in the same direction.  The business tax has been revamped to be an easier, more friendly and fair system.  The schools, colleges, and universities are working hand in hand with business and government to form relationships and programs that will lead to a better qualified workforce for existing and future needs.

We are seeing more opportunities being created daily on our upward economic curve.  We are all being called on to be a part of this partnership to make a thriving State in good working order.   Working together for Michigan.

Working Together for Michigan

It’s Getting Pretty Fishy in Auburn Hills

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator

Among the many things that make Auburn Hills such a unique place to live, is this: a river runs through it, just like the movie of the same name.  And, while we may not have Brad Pitt fly-fishing its riffles and runs, the eleven miles of the Clinton River and its tributaries flowing through the City offers a lot to citizens.

Those who venture out from behind the windshield and leave their cars in the parking lot quickly discover its natural beauty… its colorful local history… its broad, green corridor of open space offering a reprieve from busy daily life and bustling roads.  Recreation is certainly near the top of the Clinton River’s list of assets, too.  Such as, paddling your kayak or canoe down the winding river, walking and cycling along the Clinton River Trail, picnicking with the family at Riverside Park, or viewing nature along the river at River Woods Park.

Unbeknownst to many residents, there is also the fun and challenge of fishing the river’s pools and logjams in hope of catching trout, salmon, smallmouth bass, or panfish.  It is a pretty well-kept secret that the Clinton River already holds a surprisingly nice sport fishery.

When seasonal rains fill the river with a good flow of water, steelhead trout run up the river in the spring to spawn.  Salmon repeat the feat in the fall.  A few savvy anglers have discovered that brown trout, from nearby Paint Creek, leave their home waters to roam the Clinton River’s main branch in the Auburn Hills area each spring, retreating when the summer sun warms the water.  Many parents and kids have fun on a summer’s day casting a line for trout or bluegill at Riverside Park.

But, the secret of the Clinton River’s fishing fun is out and spreading, due much in part from the well attended Auburn Hills Fishing Derby, held each year in June.  This year’s derby is scheduled for Saturday, June 9th in Downtown’s Riverside Park.  See you there!

It’s Getting Pretty Fishy in Auburn Hills