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Mayor speaks about areas of growth and opportunity but cautious about financial limitations
At the 2017 State of the Community Luncheon on April 19 at Schoolcraft College, Northville Mayor Ken Roth spoke about improved communications, strategy for business development, and City finances. He was one of three community leaders – along with Mary Kay Gallagher, superintendent of Northville Public Schools; and Robert Nix, supervisor of Northville Township – who shared their vision, plans and opportunities with the greater Northville community.
The mayor pointed to multiple ways that the City has improved communication so people can be better engaged in City government. Among them:
“We are, at heart, a public service organization,” he said. “We have to be more than just a resource, where people come, gather information and leave. This is an important part of our plan to hear what’s on residents’ minds.”
Redevelopment and expansion plans
“A couple years ago the City asked a group of residents to come together and develop a plan for how some of the City’s available parcels may be redeveloped. The result was an overlay district. The residents came up with a model for how we’d like to see these parcels used,” the mayor said. (The information is available on the City’s website.)
The Downtown Development Authority is taking a look 10 years down the road to envision what the City will look like. Extensive surveys were conducted as part of the strategy plan developed in partnership with a consulting firm.
“We are going to take this information and use it as our guidepost to how to continue to move the city forward,” the mayor said. He wants developers to be incentivized to use those pieces of property to add more flexibility than what the City currently has.
“The 800-pound gorilla in the room that we get the most questions about is Northville Downs,” the mayor said. “I can’t emphasize enough that this is privately owned property and the Downs has been a major draw to the city for decades and they are welcome for as long as they want to operate.
“But, in the event that there is development for that property, we need to have a plan in place. The current plan indicates higher levels of development along Cady street, which is near the downtown and less development as you move toward Seven Mile,” he said.
“Underneath that property right now is a tributary of the Rouge River. Part of the plan calls for daylighting that tributary and making it an open green space for regional enjoyment.
“People bring us great ideas all the time and – at the end of the day ¬– we talk about them and often say, ‘Sorry, but we don’t have the money.’”
Finances are stretched tight
“I don’t want this to turn into a lecture on state and municipal finances,” Mayor Roth said. But, he said there are a lot of factors that influence the City’s budget that the administration has limited or no control over. A big factor that he finds aggravating is State revenue sharing.
He noted that the State of Michigan is supposed to compensate municipalities for money that they lost due to various state-funding mechanisms. The City of Northville is underfunded by $1.8 million dollars. “If you multiply that across the state, the numbers are huge,” he noted.
“The effects of Headlee and Proposal A are indisputable and dramatic. They work to permanently reduce the amount of property taxes that the City can generate. Property tax is our dominant source of revenue. In 2016, it’s less than what it was in 2009.”
Despite these financial challenges, the mayor says he is heartened by those who want to help move the City forward and he welcomes volunteers. “I’m positive and optimistic about the state of the City of Northville.”