Big Boom: Fireworks Tents Unleashed

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

It’s a City Planner’s nightmare.

A new law went into effect on January 1st called the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, which essentially allows the sale and use of consumer grade fireworks throughout the State of Michigan.  In a nut shell, consumers over the age of 18 can now purchase “off the ground” exploders like firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, mortars, and comets here in Michigan, instead of traveling south to Ohio or Indiana.  The primary reason for the new regulation was to ease bureaucratic red tape and capture the sales tax revenues historically lost to neighboring states.

I know what you thinking.  Hey, what’s wrong with that?  I like fireworks!

Oh, I left out one very important detail … The new Act expressly prohibits municipalities from regulating the “sale, display, storage, transportation, or distribution” of these fireworks.  Huh?  What does that mean?

Well, it means that a retailer may set up a roadside stand for fireworks sales anywhere in the City of Auburn Hills.  No local zoning approval is necessary.  All a retailer needs is a $10 million insurance policy and $600 to obtain a license from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.  The law does require that these locations be inspected by the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services prior to opening, but those officials are not here every day to ensure a safe environment.

Unbelievably, firework sales in roadside tents have now obtained favored “exempt” zoning status in Michigan.  It’s like the Wild West.

Regardless of the obvious aesthetic concerns of potentially having fireworks sales tents pop-up all over our community, there are other important considerations.

What about the things that folks never think about?  Who’s looking at compatibility with adjacent land uses, setbacks of structures, signage, bathroom facilities, parking, traffic circulation, lighting, noise, hours of operation, etc.?   The general public just assumes that someone is dealing with all these things.

So, to say that this new law has a few flaws would be an understatement.  Unregulated fireworks sales will not bring doom and gloom, but will predictably have some unintended consequences.  The City of Auburn Hills plans to be proactive and work with these retailers with the primary goal of creating a safe environment.

We hope they listen to us.  Sadly, they do not have to.

Big Boom: Fireworks Tents Unleashed

Craving Mexican Food? … We Got Good News

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

If you enjoy freshly made burritos and taco salads, you’ll love this!

Qdoba Mexican Grill – Coming in July

Qdoba Mexican Grill, the third largest Mexican restaurant chain in America, plans to open its first Auburn Hills location at the Shoppes at Baldwin Square, across from Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.

This is the site of the former La-Z-Boy store, which was extensively remodeled last year.  Qdoba will soon join AT&T, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Batteries Plus at the retail center.

The Community Development Department is preparing to issue a Building Permit for the new “fast casual” restaurant.  Qdoba representatives have told us that they expect construction will take about seven weeks to complete, with an anticipated grand opening in early July.

Qdoba offers an assortment of choices for its burritos and tacos salads, including pulled pork, shredded beef, grilled steak; as well as a selection of toppings such as three-cheese queso, guacamole, and fajita vegetables.

Being vegan, I especially enjoy dining at Qdoba because I can easily customize a veggie burrito to meet my dietary restrictions.  So, I am glad that I will soon be able to visit one of their stores here in Auburn Hills.

Craving Mexican Food? … We Got Good News

Son of The Dirty Half-Dozen: The Dreaded Inoperable Vehicle

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Cars used as planters, as auto parts departments, as storage units … we often scratch our heads when we see these types of inoperable vehicle violations and wonder, “wouldn’t that be better off rusting quietly in a junk yard, instead of taking up space in that driveway.”

What do you mean this isn’t street legal?

Well, there are many things that can render a vehicle inoperable.  Something as simple as a flat tire, or as complex as a missing engine, can make a car unroadworthy.  One of the most common violations we find is missing or expired license plates.  Another problem is car parts lying around – after all, no one wants to live next to a junk yard.

We see it all … This is a story for another blog

If an inoperable vehicle is observed, the owner is given 10 days to fix the problem.  Code Enforcement Officers will work with that person to seek voluntary compliance, but if the problem is ignored a court appearance ticket is issued.

A little story…when Chevrolet introduced its Nova into Mexico, they were surprised that sales were flat.  Then someone informed them that in Spanish “no va” means “doesn’t go.”

So, if you see a car that “doesn’t go” let us know at 248-364-6900 and maybe we can make it go away.

Coming Soon:  The Green Monster! (and we’re not talking about Fenway Park.)

Son of The Dirty Half-Dozen: The Dreaded Inoperable Vehicle

The Dirty Half-Dozen

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

When it get’s messy, people call us.

As Code Enforcement Officers, we are charged with enforcing a number of City Ordinances.  These standards are necessary because blighting factors directly impact the quality of life, crime rate, and property values of our community.  You may be suprised by some of the issues we are called to address over the course of a year.

However, many of the situations we deal with are rather routine for us.  We refer to these violations as “The Dirty Half-Dozen.”  One of these top six common violations involves improperly stored garbage and rubbish.

Let’s define our terms first.

  1. Garbage is generally food waste.  You know, the liver that little Johnny wouldn’t finish or the forgotten cheese that was growing penicillin in the back of the fridge.
  2. Rubbish is solid, non-food wastes; basically, all the other stuff you toss out that’s not garbage.

    Garbage and Rubbish Mess

Because garbage can get nasty, the City Code requires it to be stored in sealed containers.  Rubbish, however, may be stored in plastic bags or paper disposal bags when in an enclosed structure or at the curb on pickup day.

Now that the City has contracted with a single trash collector, be sure to avoid putting your garbage and rubbish out more than 24-hours in advance of your collection day.  That way you’re not feeding unwanted critters or having your rubbish blow all over the neighborhood.

With a little thought and preparation when dealing with your trash disposal, you can do your part in keeping Auburn Hills beautiful.  If you see this type of problem in your neighborhood, feel free to call us at 248-364-6900.

Coming Soon:  Those cars that aren’t quite ready for the junkyard, but aren’t exactly street legal either – The Dreaded Inoperable Vehicle!

The Dirty Half-Dozen

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

This week over 1 billion people in 192 countries will celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day.  The City of Auburn Hills will do so this Friday as described in Brian Marzolf’s blog – Begin by Planting a Tree.  This is an important time of remembrance.

Many may not know that the idea of “Earth Day” came from Gaylord Nelson, former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.  After witnessing the devastation caused by the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Mr. Nelson felt something had to be done to raise awareness about how humans were negatively affecting the environment.   However, the bigger message that has grown out of this movement is that the earth is not disposable and that we have to think differently long-term.   In a nut shell, those living today have a responsibility to future generations to leave the world a better place than we found it.

Most people are finding that it is not easy to be green.  It often costs more money, time, and commitment than conventional practices.  In America, as a society we focus on the bottom line – the immediate situation – and find such proactive action as inefficient.

To make matters worse, many governments and companies pay lip service to the movement and participate in “green washing.”  They deceptively act like they are environmentally friendly which makes legitimate efforts by serious players, like those conducted by the Auburn Hills’ team, look like a fad.

Well, anything worth doing will cost money, time, and commitment.   We all must look beyond the immediate and envision the long-term.   The City of Auburn Hills has worked hard to “think ahead” about what type of community it wants to be when it grows up.   As a community, we have also decided that we can make a difference not only locally, but nationally.   Auburn Hills is proactive … it is in our DNA.

It is no coincidence that open space, wetlands, and trees are preserved here; the Clinton River is fishable; a series of beautiful parks have been created; recycling is encouraged; developers are asked to construct sustainable buildings; trees are planted annually; City facilities are retrofitted to become more energy-efficient; and that Michigan’s electric vehicle readiness movement started here.  These things did not happen by accident.

So, this Earth Day we remember the achievements of the past, understand that more needs to be done, and reaffirm our committment to continue the noble journey.

It ain’t easy being green, but it is worth it.

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Churches and Seniors and Chickens, Oh My!

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

The Auburn Hills Planning Commission is looking forward to a good and informative meeting tomorrow – Tuesday, April 24th at 7:00 p.m. – in the Council Chamber.

This dedicated group of residents is scheduled to address the following topics:

1.  Review a proposal to redevelop the vacant office building located at 2240 N. Opdyke Road.  As discussed in my previous blog – A Few Can Make A Big Impact – the Community Impact Church plans to convert the building into their permanent home.

Potential Senior Housing Project

2.  Dawn Foulke with Shire Retirement Communities will informally share her vision of constructing assisted living facilities for the elderly in a few locations within Auburn Hills.

Her concept is unique and different from other senior housing products in the market in that each complex is small and designed for only about 20 residents.  No formal action will be taken.

3.  Shawn Keenan, Water Resources Coordinator will introduce the growing trend of chicken keeping in residential backyards.  Over the next few months, the Planning Commission will proactively investigate whether or not the City should change its laws to allow this land use.  We have found that this issue has two opposing sides: a) those citizens who want to keep chickens for egg production; and b) those citizens who are concerned about the nuisances the chickens may cause; such as noise, smells, diseases, and the potential for the animals to run loose in yards.

Planning for Urban Chicken Farming

There is a national debate between the two opposing sides as to the appropriateness of chickens in an urban environment and if chickens qualify as pets or livestock.

It is our goal to develop a well thought out backyard chicken ordinance, which strikes a balance – allowing citizens the right to keep chickens while also addressing the nuisance concerns of the neighbors.

4.  Lastly, we will start a discussion about the demographic changes occurring across the nation; with a specific emphasis on the aging of the population.  Last year, the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation reached age 65.  By 2030, more than 70 million Americans—twice the number in 2000 – will be 65 and older (nearly one in five people).   The Planning Commission plans to comprehensively review how to prepare the City of Auburn Hills for this oncoming wave of older adults.  Auburn Hills desires to be a “livable community” for all ages and we feel addressing this emerging trend is critical.

So, as you can see, the Planning Commission is working hard to “think ahead” and prepare the City for the future.   We encourage all who are interested in any of these topics to attend the meeting.   This is fun stuff!

Churches and Seniors and Chickens, Oh My!

Hometown Boy, Brian McBroom Does Well

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Every once in a while people ask me … “Where’s that tall guy?”

Brian McBroom

Well, it is hard to believe that it has been over four years since Brian McBroom left us for the snow-covered mountains of Colorado.  He served the City of Auburn Hills as Director of Community Development for eight years (1999-2007).   Brian was my boss and mentor.  He is like a brother to me and is truly missed.

As many may know, Brian grew up in the Bloomfield Orchards Subdivision and graduated from Avondale High School.  One of his first jobs was working under former City Planning Consultant Steve Lehoczky.  He was the perfect guy to head the newly created Community Development Department in the Fall of 1999.   He did a great job for Auburn Hills.

In January 2008, Brian started a new position as Director of Community Development for Commerce City, Colorado.   The town is a business community similar to Auburn Hills, but a little bigger with a population of 45,913.  It is located northeast of Denver near the Denver International Airport.  He quickly advanced through the ranks at Commerce City to Deputy City Manager and most recently to Interim City Manager.

I am pleased to report that earlier this week, Brian McBroom was unanimously promoted to City Manager of his community.  The Mayor of Commerce City said “The City Council has confidence in Brian’s ability to lead us into the future.  Over the past four years, Brian demonstrated expertise in building successful teams and delivering results. His collaborative approach to problem-solving, respect among employees, and proven history of accomplishment made him the best fit for the position.”

Congrats Brian!   It is great to see our ‘Hometown Boy’ do well.

Hometown Boy, Brian McBroom Does Well