“Sidewalk to Nowhere” Draws Residents’ Ire

By EMMITT LEWIS

The latest Rochester Hills city council meeting on Monday, September 24 began with a presentation by the chairperson of the Deer Management Advisory Committee, Deborah Barno, who delivered a 2018 report and recommendations.

Barno showed council graphs and maps that highlighted hot spots for deer and vehicle crashes, as well as crashes that have occurred in the last 20 years and the number of yearly deer complaints. On the deer and vehicle collision graph, Barno commented that crashes are down slightly from the previous year.

“You can see that in 2016 that we were at 176 crashes. We were down slightly this year at 161 crashes. Again, that still is a downward trend from our high in 2007 at 219 crashes,” Barno said.

For the recommendations, Barno suggested expanding the period of changeable message boards in areas with high deer collisions, increasing the budget for 2019, and maintaining the reflective tape on city-controlled deer traffic signs. A public comment was put forth by a resident attending the meeting.

“I have recently attended two meetings of the deer management committee. My overall impression is that the committee believes the problem is, us, human beings,” he said.

He disagreed that the deer problem is due to people, and suggested the idea of culling.

“Later this evening, council will approve a budget that I’m sure will provide probably millions of dollars to hire various independent professionals. Yet, when it came time for the city’s ill-fated deer culling program of a few years ago to take place, the city did not hire professionals, whose business is to safely cull deer,” he said.

The resident said that the city should take a look at Ann Arbor’s program to observe how their cullings are implemented and take note. “Yes, we have a deer problem that will not solve itself and culling is the only rational answer,” he concluded.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett replied that culling was an option before, however it’s difficult to do in a populated area. He said that two areas are looked at to determine if such a measure should be taken: The deer population increasing by 20 percent, and deer collisions exceeding 200 crashes.

“Those are the metrics that allow this council to look at other proactive measures, relative to our deer population. And as you saw presented by Ms. Barno tonight, both of those numbers, with asterisks, are trending in the opposite direction,” Mayor Barnett said.

In other business, a representative for the developers of the Berkshire Estates came to the council meeting to answer any questions regarding the project. Berkshire is seeking council’s approval of a 13- unit, single-family site condo development on approximately 4.3 acres, located on the east site of John R, south of Hamlin. The site is zoned R-4 One Family Residential.

Two public comments were made about the project from concerned citizens from a neighboring road by the development site. The first commenter mentioned that putting in a sidewalk that is near the site (and in front of her home) is pointless.

“We would like to propose the sidewalk not be there. There’s no other sidewalk on Gravel Ridge, there’s no sidewalk on Demar. Now the road is gated, this sidewalk goes no place,” she said.

The resident said she understands that eventually another sidewalk will be built there, to make it more useful. Until then, she would like the funds for the sidewalk to be put into a savings account.

A second commenter echoed a similar point. “It’s basically a sidewalk to nowhere. I don’t really see a purpose for it,” she said, adding that she doesn’t see a benefit for it.

Council Vice President Stephanie Morita said that the issue with the sidewalk will be discussed with the planning commission before any further steps will be taken.

“Just so everyone knows, this goes back to planning commission before it comes back to city council and so the issue with sidewalk is something we can talk about before then, and then again with planning commission at that time,” Morita said.

Mayor Barnett put in a final word on the topic, asking the city council to think more in terms of the future before they make their final decision.

“Most of what you’re going to see in the future in terms of development are going to look like sidewalks to nowhere,” the mayor said.

The mayor added that most sidewalks may appear to lead to nowhere until one connects them. Barnett told the council to keep future projects in mind when making decisions like this one.

You can view this and other council meetings on YouTube by searching “Council Meetings – City of Rochester Hills.”