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Royal Oak: A Victim Of Its Own Success?

Will Royal Oak be a victim of its own success, or will it take advantage of its popularity as a destination and adapt by supplying additional vertical parking and a downtown park?

Last night Saturday we had a warm spell and I decided on my way to Oak Park to stop at the Carribou after noticing a friend's bicycle. There were no parking spaces to be found anywhere downtown.  It was packed.  I had to park in a lot on the other side of the track, seventy five cents an hour! I had an ephiphany, they are right, this city makes over a million dollars a year just in parking revenue!! There is new construction, new homes, condos, DMC coming why all the crocodile tears? Where does it all go?  Pensions, yes but something needs to be done.  We do need to fix up the park downtown but what we need most of all is another downtown parking structure. I notice at least three good locations. 1. The parking lot across the track from Hamlins. 2. Even better, the parking lot behind Adriana's and Beirut. 3. The best is one on the Fresard property across from the existing one on Washington if a deal can be worked out with David Griffen, 400 Main LLC, and Emagine Theater Paul Glantz.  I left messages for Glantz but could not get a hold of Griffen.

The profit on parking structures is marginal, however the profit on the other end for Emagine, and the present and future businesses near eleven and Main would be significant. Especially if the new hotel, apartments and office proposals by 400 Main goes through. It does not take an accountant to see that downtown Royal Oak is truly a victim of its own success.  With a more pro-active DDA and planning commission this is possible. Businesses need to extend their hours a little more, the sidewalks roll up too early with the exception of the bars. This is the most walkable city in Oakland County including Detroit and it could be made even more walkable with a downtown park.  One or two additional parking structures would free up some land around city city hall so the park can be expanded. There is also the lot adjacent to Farmers Market and I believe another building on fourth street.

We just have to get over stupid fear of homeless sleeping on benches and molesting passer bys (I read the comments). We are rebooting our police department and for ***#*sake the department is next to the park! In the description of the improvements made to our library a few years ago there is  mention of the outside park included as part of the library.  It would be a good idea to give over to the library the job of forming a committee along with parks and recreation to immediately improve that area using the new ideas of adopt a park along with a motivated DDA that would like to see more foot traffic downtown all year around.

Collateral benefits of vertical downtown parking and park improvement would be a rise in property values throughout the city over what has already happened.  All the progress the city has made so far will have a cap put on it without more vertical parking downtown, with a more walkable attractive downtown park. It does not take a genius to see that what supports a city is an influx of young families and good schools which must be backed by a self supporting downtown.

Jim Rasor's grandiose dream of a greatly enlarged central park will have to be put off for another generation. That is obvious with the problems our present commissioners have in supporting and cooperating with our city's ethics ordinance. We all have to step back a little to see the forest for the trees.  For every major improvement there also comes a set back, but those minor set backs can be dealt with now that we have the tax base to do it. We need leadership that realizes that everybody cannot be pleased and is willing to work together when the city's goals are finally prioritized. One issue such as a hotel is not going to solve the problem and unless the leaks are plugged and the course is set the ship will flounder in time. Citizen's can help catalyze our commission by attending more meetings in force. We need to support our outspoken and concerned board members as presently we have too many both elected and appointed who are just paddling their own canoes.

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Tom January 20, 2013 at 10:52 PM
A simple start would be to quit granting the huge parking variances for some of the major projects, ie. Emagine Theatre. These "shared parking" explainations are a farce.
M. Reilly January 21, 2013 at 12:51 AM
The entire development at 11 Mile and Main Street is woefully underparked. And don't forget another big bar has been approved where the old Rumor's was, I think called Jolly Pumpkin, along with the Hamlin Pub north of 11 Mile Road. Between those two additional bars alone is a 700+ capacity. Neither one of those bars provided one solitary parking space, but will require hundreds of spaces. Now the commission will want to spend parking our monies to provide these bar owners parking spaces.
M. Reilly January 21, 2013 at 03:29 AM
The elected officials created the parking shortage by adding big box bar after big box bar without the elected officials demanding for the bars to help pay for parking spaces as a contigency for their original approval. Now that they have their approvals, there is no way to demand that they help pay for a parking structure. Good luck in extracting money from their fat wallets now.
Raven Soccer January 21, 2013 at 04:09 PM
We now have a parking shortage, especially in the 11 Mile and Wiiliams lot, and 11 Mile and Troy area? What a surprise! Remember how Emagine, the mayor, and other commissioners relied on the outside parking study that said there was more than ample parking for the Emagine project? Now that same consultant is saying parking those lots are at, or near full capacity. Commissioners who questioned that there was not enough parking for that project, and that the Emagine proposal was too dense for the area were called "anti development". Now, the mayor and same commissioners want to build a parking deck on taxpayer dollars (yes, the parking fund is the taxpayer's asset), to alleviate the parking shortage? What's a few million dollars? We can always ask for another millage increase.
MG January 21, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Why did Royal Oak approve the Jolly Pumpkin bar, and the Hampton Pub if there is a parking shortgage in that are?
MG January 21, 2013 at 04:37 PM
...a parking shortage in that area?
MG January 21, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Ron, I'll ask again. Why were these bars and major developments approved if we don't have adequate infrastructure such as parking in place first, or at least provisions to provide parking as part of the approval process?
RO Kelly January 21, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Spend money in our neighborhoods. Upgrade the parks, and fix the potholes in neighborhood streets. I'm tired of watching these politicians funneling our money into the downtown. Now they want to build another parking deck to accomodate the drunks in the downtown? No way! Let the bar owners provide their own parking spaces. Our neighborhood park has a baseball backstop older than I am, and I have kids that go to high school.
Debbie Campbell January 21, 2013 at 11:54 PM
This is my understanding of how it goes is --The same consultant is always hired to perform a parking study/analysis—the consultant is paid and the study always tells the City/developer what they want to hear which is that there is no parking shortage-
Tony A. January 22, 2013 at 02:58 AM
I tend to agree that way too much time is spent by the commission focused on the downtown, and not nearly enough attention is given to the meighborhoods. Code enforcement is non-existant is my neighborhood.
B.T. January 22, 2013 at 05:29 PM
The politicians have turned Royal Oak from a family friendly community, to drunken party town. Just read the police blotter each week. No wonder why families with school children have exited over the past decade. At least with the passing of the recent millage, we have enough officers to address all the drunken public urinators in the downtown..
Debbie Campbell January 22, 2013 at 09:56 PM
The following arrests were made 1/10 through 1/17 Five (5) Misdemeanor Warrant Four (4) Felony Warrants Three (3) Possession of Marijuana Three (3) Disorderly Conduct Two (2) Operating While Intoxicated Two (2) Public Intoxication One (1) Public Intoxication, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia One (1) Consuming Alcohol in Public One (1) Operating While Intoxicated, Hit and Run Injury Accident One (1) Public Intoxication, Misdemeanor Warrant One (1) Driving While License Suspended One (1) Urinating in Public, Resisting Arrest, MDOP Police Property One (1) Assault & Battery, Obstructing a Police Officer One (1) Assault & Battery One (1) Driving While License Suspended, Possession of Marijuana One (1) Possession of Synthetic Narcotics and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia One (1) Felonious Assault One (1) Operated While Intoxicated, Possession of Marijuana, Open Intoxicants in a Motor Vehicle One (1) Operated While Intoxicated II, Felony Warrant, Driving While License Suspended, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of LSD
Joseph January 23, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Seems like a disproportionate amount of alcohol and drug related arrests, compared with other crimes. I wonder if there is a direct connection to Royal Oak having an inordinate amount of liquor establishments. It seems like it would have to.
Mark Itall January 23, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Ronald, What does the following mean, there are words missing and "take action on personal pecadillos" means what and who? "The lobby system is unfortunately alive and well, and it usually those who sit on the boards, or have the power such as our city manager, and planning commissioners who instead of carefully listening prefer to take action on personal pecadillos just to obfuscate and obstruct neighborhood concerns, as well as quality of life improvements.
Mark Itall January 23, 2013 at 07:10 AM
Okay with calling you Holmes, he is pompous too. I know the word, you need a dictionary to review the meaning. Pecadillo is a small sin or fault, not the diatribe you wrote. I wanted you to be more specific and you weren't, you just wandered off verbally. "The best is one on the Fresard property across from the existing one on Washington". The only parking structures on Washington are the Center Street structure by the Post Office and OCC's structures south of Lincoln. I believe you mean East of Main @ University? Hamlin's is not near any tracks, it will be on N. Main @ University. Elementary my dear Holmes. The city is legally obligated to fund parking in the CBD, but the profits from the parking system have been spent in the general budget for many years, making it very difficult to save the needed cash to go with new bonding. FYI, the Center Street structure cannot be enlarged, too old. It would have to be replaced if larger was desired there. You are correct that structures is the way to go, simply to reduce the dead space footprint. Trouble is people only want to park out front, just like you did, and don't go to a structure, just like you didn't. The Lafayette structures always have spaces, too many people unwilling to walk 3 blocks. Michigan cities have been able to levy an income tax since 1964, there are 22 at this time.
Bob January 23, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Thank you Mark. You are quite correct with the description of the parking fund and how it has been raided over the years. As for Mr. Wolf, he appears to have a tendency for posting a WHOLE LOTTA WORDS strung together in an unintelligible manner. Using big words, that we do know the meaning of by the way, is not impressive. A city income tax will hit the working residents much harder than he realizes. I'll tell ya what. If retirees agree to handle 20% of the property tax burden of the working stiffs, I'll support a city income tax.
Oaktown January 23, 2013 at 04:28 PM
#1) Whether a city income tax is positive/negative or neutral for the community, the city commission has never had a focused public discussion hashing out the pros and cons of such a proposal. They invest zero time on this, and searching for alternative revenue streams is so very important. 2) The city raids the parking fund on a yearly basis to balance the general fund, instead of truly addressing their budgetary structural deficit. This in turn, forces the city to bond out for a greater dollar amount when it comes time to build another parking structure. Another way to put it, instead of paying cash from the parking fund, they will use a credit card. 3) Over the years, the city has exasperated the parking shortage issue by continuing to approve 400 + seat bar/restaurants, and granting 200+ parking waivers for major developments like the Freed project, and Emagine Theater. Even though the bars are in the CBD, the commission holds the power of denial on a liquor license if they don't have enough parking. They've approved them anyway. Now, they want the taxpayers to charge a parking deck via bonding? How about better planning during the approval process?
Larry D January 24, 2013 at 03:42 AM
Whether new parking facilities are paid for in cash or by bonding, the money to pay for the parking facilities comes from parking revenues, not the general fund.
K.M. January 24, 2013 at 04:02 AM
No one has claimed that any future parking decks would be paid from the general fund. I believe the point Oaktown makes is that instead of paying cash from parking fund reserves (or minimalizing the amount the city bonds out for), instead, the city will be bonding out for the entire amount.
Slim Jim January 24, 2013 at 07:20 PM
The city is only concerned about the downtown and treats the neighborhoods like the proverbial red headed stepchild. Our 12 year old son plays baseball. Except for Memorial Park, the ballfields in this town are atrocious compared to other communities in Oakland County. This year we've decided to drop from the Royal Oak league, because of the field conditions, and have signed up with a travel league out of Troy.
Bob January 24, 2013 at 08:52 PM
I don't think it's an allegation.
Ray Smith January 24, 2013 at 09:38 PM
I've also heard that the City routinely transfers money from the parking fund to the general fund for balancing purposes. I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, from my knowledge, it's a pretty common practice among municipalities.
Tom January 24, 2013 at 10:03 PM
Ray, the parking fund has a designated purpose, and that is to maintain current parking lots and facilities, to acquire property for future parking lots and facilities, and to pay for the debt of current parking structures, and the debt on future parking structures. Its purpose isn't to be a slush fund to balance the general fund. In addition, a past city commission limited the amount that the city could access on a yearly basis. Last year, the city commission waived that limit and took even more. Perhaps you should read the parking fund policy before posting.
Mark Itall January 24, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Hardly an allegation, it has been clearly marked in the budget, discussed during CC meetings and reported in the papers and on-line for at least a decade, perhaps 2. And Larry is quite correct with the addtion that the DDA is paying for the Lafayette and 6th deck.
Larry D January 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM
K.M. I confess I don't understand the point. If you want the cash left in the parking system to minimize the cost of bonding to be paid out of parking revenues, it will come from replacing the parking revenue going to the general fund by either 1) a tax increase, or 2) diminishment of city services. These don't seem like desireable alternatives.
Ray Smith January 25, 2013 at 12:51 AM
Tom, you may be right technically, but if you haven't noticed, we are not functioning within a normal economy, but rather, the worse financial downturn since the Great Depression. Consequently, actions must sometimes be taken to keep entities afloat.
Tom January 25, 2013 at 01:52 AM
My response to that, Ray, is that the city has been raiding the parking fund for over a decade plus, which preceeds the latest economic meltdown. So, I would respectfully reject your explanation. It may justify the last couple of years, but not the years prior to 2008. Raiding the parking fund is a longterm pattern of our city government, not a response to the recent economic downturn. If you read the mission of the parking fund, it does not include supplimenting the general fund. It may justify the last
Slim Jim January 25, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Ron, you're a hoot! I'm not opposed to making the gingers work a little harder, but I prefer they do hard labor taking extra batting practice and fielding extra grounders during practice. It seems cruel and unusal punishment to expect them to address and fix the things our elected officials are supposed to be doing. The city of Troy seems to agree, and our family doesn't have to worry about peddling lemons to get a decent field to play on. Cheers, Ron.
Carrot Top January 25, 2013 at 05:52 AM
You guys can yuck it up at our expense for now, but one day, us gingers will rule the world. You've been warned.
Ray Smith January 25, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Tom, have you voiced your concern about the parking fund to city officials? Couldn't hurt.

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