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Royal Oak officials to consider new way of evaluating developers’ projects

Posted By: Royal Oak Tribune on July 11, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.


Royal Oak city commissioners are looking at a different way of assessing some development projects to encourage environmental and other benefits to the community.

Commissioners are set to discuss ways of evaluating developments to bring them in line with community goals.

Among those goals are such things as environmental sustainability, affordable housing for senior residents, and limiting stormwater runoff, and avoiding increased demands for public safety services from police or fire.

City Manager Paul Brake is bringing the issue back to commissioners based on earlier discussions city commissioners have had.

He said a new evaluation checklist or scorecard for building projects would affect developers of mostly larger buildings that require special land use permits, or planned use developments where zoning variances are requested.

“Because of the size and scale of these projects they are very visible in the community,” Brake said. “And the City Commission is very committed to our environmental sustainability plan.”

Other guidelines commissioners have suggested thus far include requests to encourage labor and economic development, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Commissioners have suggested having a list of criteria that can be presented to prospective developers so that they can voluntarily include building features that the city wants to encourage.

The majority of greenhouse emissions that are generated in Royal Oak come chiefly from commercial and residential properties, Brake said.

City commissioners are not unanimous in their views on the need to have developers meet a checklist of requirements or suggestions outside of the existing reviews by the Planning Commission and City Commission

“If developers are investing millions of dollars in the community and have met all the requirements as far as land use and environmental concerns,” said City Commissioner Patricia Paruch, “that’s the biggest community benefit of all.”

One exception to that would be in cases where a developer is getting city land or a tax abatement, which should bring a quid pro quo, she added.

“We need new investment because the city has to keep renewing itself,” Paruch said.

However, there does appear to be consensus among a majority of commissioners to seek comments from developers before the City Commission agrees on a checklist and possibly makes it either a suggestion or city requirement, Brake said.

“I think this will help articulate the collective view of the mayor and city commissioners,” he said, “and from the developers’ perspective would hopefully assist in expediting the development process.”

City officials in recent years have been concerned with reducing the amount of stormwater runoff from buildings, often asking that features such as green roofs and rain gardens be included in developers’ projects.

A few years ago, Royal Oak moved to initiate a stormwater utility to tax tall commercial and residential property owners based on the amount of concrete and other impervious surfaces on each parcel of land.

Detroit, Ann Arbor and some other cities  have similar taxes in place, but have been sued. Royal Oak paused its effort to create a stormwater utility tax about two years ago, waiting to see how the courts ruled.

In moving for green infrastructure and other features from developers, Royal Oak officials have the option of offering incentives to accomplish city goals, rather than enacting a city ordinance or other regulatory rule.

Those incentives could include more leniency on setbacks and density, or reduced parking requirements and use of public rights of way.

A city checklist of suggestions for developers could save them time and money, Brake said.

“It’s better to know what the expectations are up front,” he said, “as opposed to spending a lot of time working with an architect and engineer then being told you are doing everything wrong.”

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