Farmington city officials will consider a proposal Dec. 17 that would draw residents, business owners and even people from neighboring communities into developing a city vision plan.
At a study session Monday, city manager Vince Pastue said the $29,500 proposal submitted by planning consultant OHM Advisors for the 6-month project exceeds the $25,000 budgeted. He added that funds are available to cover the additional cost.
"The last time we had a vision program was in 1998, and that set the stage for the changes in the downtown area," Pastue said.
"We're big believers of this," said James Houk, OHM vice president of planning, design and development. "A lot has changed over the last five years or more in southeast Michigan."
Houk said the visioning process will help define what is special about Farmington and what people like about the community, then allows the community to build on that and create "almost a brand". With a vision plan in place, the city can identify missing components and make changes that fit with the vision.
"It allows you to be able to make strategic decisions on capital projects, public-private partnerships," Houk said. "It's a road map that will lead to better decisions."
In order to keep costs down, Houk said, consultants would make use of any tools that already exist, like studies completed as part of the city and Farmington Downtown Development Authority (DDA) branding processes about five years ago. On-line surveys can help verify whether the data is still valid, he added.
For council member JoAnne McShane, inclusiveness is a priority, ensuring seniors, people who are handicapped and those who don't use the Internet are included. Council member Kristin Kuiken pointed out that most younger people don't have a home phone, so doing phone surveys would likely miss many in that generation.
The visioning process would begin with a 15-20 member task force of stakeholders who will help implement the plan. It includes opportunities for public input in "idea gathering" meetings and a community-wide open house. Council member Greg Cowley asked that people in Farmington Hills be included, because those residents frequent Farmington businesses.
"I'm not so much worried about the residential folks, they're happy," Cowley said. "But if you talk to the business people, they're not."
Charlie Fleetham of Farmington Hills-based Projection Innovations, which will co-lead the community input sessions, said the process will ensure that even people who are shy will get a chance to share their thoughts and prevents "special interest" groups from taking over the discussion.
"Is there any type of accountability or follow up to make sure the vision doesn't just sit on the shelf?" council member Kristin Kuiken asked.
Hauk said the final product will include an accountability plan with "steps you need to do as a community to move this along." He said LSL Planning consultants is part of the team to help with any recommended changes to the city's master plan or code of ordinances.