Director of Planning, Timothy E Thwing
Office Hours Available to the Public:
Monday - Thursday, 8:00am - 4:30pm
Friday, 8:00am - Noon
Planning Division Phone: (248) 246-3280
Planning Division Fax: (248) 246-3005
Street Address: 3rd Floor, City Hall, 211 S Williams St, Royal Oak MI 48067-2619
The Planning Department is comprised of two (2) divisions; the Planning Division and the Housing Division. Activities, programs and assignments within these divisions are established, coordinated and supervised by the Director of Planning.
The Planning Division exists to oversee the physical and economic development of the City and, in particular, those areas under private ownership. In fulfilling this purpose, the Division provides administrative support to the City Commission and various advisory boards, most notably, the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Downtown Development Authority, Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Economic Development Corporation and the Community Development Block Grant Program. The Planning Division also works closely with the business community and City residents, answering questions and addressing concerns in an effort to meet the needs of each within the context of the City’s plans and Ordinances.
The traditional role of the Planning Division, in the context of municipal government, involves foreseeing the various physical and economic needs of a community and then providing for those needs through the preparation of various plans and Ordinances, which may be considered for approval by elected and appointed officials. In Royal Oak, this traditional role has been supplemented by the Planning Division’s pro-active role and participation in the actual implementation of many physical and economic development plans or projects.
The pro-active role has changed the nature of the Division from a more passive one, concerned with the preparation of plans, to one actively involved in every aspect of the City’s physical and economic development.
The Planning Commission meets monthly and is responsible for adopting and updating the City’s Master Plan, reviewing and recommending changes to the Zoning Ordinance, including the rezoning of property, granting special land use permits and reviewing site plans for all development, except one and two-family residential projects. Interested parties are advised that the Planning Commission requires submission of site plans in advance of the meeting. All plans are reviewed by a planner, as well as representatives from the Building Inspection, Fire, Engineer and Police departments. The petitioner/developer is invited to make changes to the plans based upon staff comments and then the plans, along with written recommendations, are provided to the Planning Commission. Rezoning requests and special land use permits require a public hearing and public notification.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is charged with hearing requests for variances or interpretations to specific Zoning Ordinance provisions. The board meets monthly and all appeals require a public hearing with notices sent to properties within 300 feet of the site. Staff prepares a written report of findings on all appeals. Considerable time is spent to ensure that all information is accurate and the appellant’s intent is clear.
The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) also meets monthly or more often if needed. It is responsible for “visioning” and implementing physical improvements to be made in the Downtown Development District. Funding for the improvements has come from a variety of sources, including: Tax Increment Financing, Block Grant Program, and State and Federal Programs. The Director of Planning serves as Executive Director of the DDA and along with Planning Division staff, provides day-to-day administrative services such as preparing agenda materials, meeting minutes, budgets, development plan preparation, project implementation, applying and administering grants, etc.
The DDA in recent years has added activities associated with the marketing and promotion of the downtown to its activities. While the DDA has hired “contract employees” to coordinate portions of these added activities and programs, they remain under the direction of the Executive Director/Planning Director and it has placed additional demands for information, service and staff time on the Planning Department. In addition, the DDA has been designated the City’s Parking Committee.
The Rehabilitation Board of Appeals was established as the body to hear appeals from homeowners regarding their application for funding under the Housing Rehabilitation Program. As of January 24, 2005, the Board was assigned the duties of the former Citizens Advisory Committee on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) matters. In that capacity, the Rehabilitation Board of Appeals provides recommendations and oversight to the City Commission regarding all aspects of the CDBG program, specifically low- to moderate-income housing and community development needs. The Board meets monthly which has required that Planning Department staff modify the CDBG activity budget application and review process from a six month cycle (January to June) to monthly. Planning staff coordinates funding requests from community non-profit groups and City departments and provides reports and information on the Community Development Block Grant and other Federal programs that may be of value to the City. Department staff also prepares documents such as the Impediments to Fair Housing, the Five Year Consolidated Plan, the Annual Action Plan, Comprehensive Annual Performance Evaluation Report, and other interim reports required by HUD.
Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA), created on May 15, 2000 by the City of Royal Oak pursuant to Act 381 of 1996, coordinates the implementation of brownfield plans relating to the revitalization and redevelopment of environmentally distressed areas or properties within the City of Royal Oak. The Authority meets on an as needed basis.
In addition to serving the above referenced bodies, the Planning Division spends a great deal of time assisting the public on questions regarding land use, economic development and zoning. Many of these inquires and/or points of contact do not result in items which appear on an agenda, but permit citizens to better understand City Ordinances and policies. other tasks or issues such as sidewalk cafes, license agreements (for a variety of purposes), right-of-way vacations, lot splits and liquor license requests, etc., also involve a great deal of Planning staff time. The Planning Department also works to establish, build and maintain its use of the City’s Geographic Information System (GIS) and fully utilize the City’s website for community development updates.
The Housing Rehabilitation Program has been active in the City of Royal Oak since the mid-1970’s, in order to upgrade and conserve the existing single family housing stock in the City. The program provides financial assistance to eligible homeowners (those with low- and moderate-incomes). The program is funded by the City’s Community Development Block Grant Program, which includes proceeds from repayments of loans previously approved.
Three forms of financial assistance are provided: grants, monthly installment loans at 0% interest for homeowners with incomes no more than 80% of the area’s median income and deferred loans 3% for homeowners at 40% of the area’s median income. Typical improvements are roofs, siding, windows, furnaces, porches and concrete. Work often includes kitchens, bathroom, electrical updating, barrier-free improvements, and a host of minor exterior and interior repairs. As a full service program, the City provides loan underwriting, inspection of the property, solicitation of contractors, and construction management at no charge. Homeowners will pay for assessment/inspection of lead-based paint hazards, as provided by an outside testing company, if necessary.
Important note: As of July 1, 2012, the City no longer administers a Housing Choice Voucher / Section 8 program.