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Brainstorming for community improvements

October 09, 2013 - While describing the Sashabaw and Dixie Highway Corridors local leaders pondered how to describe Dixie.

Among the terms were "weathered," "hodge-podge," "shabby," "upgrade," "busy," "traffic" and "resurgence."

"If you look at Dixie Highway 15 years ago it doesn't look like it does today," said Dick Carlisle of Carlisle-Wortman, Independence Township's engineering and planning firm at a joint meeting of the Township Board and Planning Commission. "What we have seen here is the economy being shifted away from Dixie Highway."

The brainstorming exercise was during a Master Plan Workshop. After describing their opinions of Dixie's current state, each said what they want Dixie Highway to become in the next 10 years including "commercially successful," "attractive," "elegant," "unified" and "an entrance to the community."

Planning Commissioner Judy Tully said parts of the Dixie Highway development involved a lot of money, time and investment years ago when the township had a Downtown Development Authority.

"What you see now on Dixie was at one time considered more aesthetically pleasing," said Carlisle.

"My impression of Dixie Highway is it is run down and outdated," said Tully, adding a lot of opportunity exists there, too.

Dixie Highway and Sashabaw Road are the two main focuses of the township. The corridors face different challenges. Dixie is a more traditional area while Sashabaw boasts 200 acres yet to be developed between Clarkston and Maybee roads.

Carlisle said officials should consider improving traffic, aesthetics, identity, pedestrian access and providing a good mix of commercial and residential development in the community.

Both corridors need to be better connected for people like walkers and bicyclists, Carlisle said.

Pedestrians, bicyclists and sidewalks need to be better connected to businesses and recreational facilities on both Dixie and Sashabaw. Creating a more walkable community includes installing wide sidewalks, safe pedestrian crossings and safety paths, he added.

Last week, the Township Board approved adjusting the fire and safety path millages to allow more money to fund safety paths.

The adjustment was made to allocate an additional $130,000 to begin collecting more money in the fund and start working on building several safety paths.

Planning Commission Chairman Sam Morcao said Dixie Highway is not safe enough to consider how pedestrians are going to cross safely.

Improvements like quality landscape, upgraded store fronts and uniformed signage could improve the aesthetics of Dixie.

Visual standards, a visual identity to "create a look," comparable to the Sashabaw Road development will be implemented by requiring visual standards such as consistent streetscape and uniformed signage on Dixie.

Moraco said a poor economy took a toll on Dixie and resulted in a decrease of landscaping at businesses.

He added forcing business to focus on landscaping as part of revitalization and pulling permits will help improve the Dixie Highway aesthetics.

McLaren Hospital may help further that development and result in a micro population of workers, residents and visitors there.

Kittle said McLaren is working with the state legislature and the Oakland County Circuit Court after the state of Michigan Department of Community Health denied a request to transfer 200 hospital beds from Pontiac to Clarkston.

McLaren has sued the Michigan Department of Community Health over the issue, and is hoping to build a over $300 million hospital on Sashabaw and Bow Pointe roads.

Treasurer Paul Brown said he it's important to include a cultural touch to Sashabaw.

"That's the kind of thing the younger generation is going to look for," he added.

Maraco said he sees developing a cultural center with the entertainment industry will be harder do accomplish without a dense population.

Trustee Andrea Schroeder referred to the Adopt-a-Garden program in the City of the Village of Clarkston and it's success.

Carlisle said there aren't projects on the Sashabaw corridor yet but there are many possibilities for the future.

Staff writer
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