The next city council in Auburn Hills will face questions about the future of the Palace complex and about other development-related issues, says Natalie Broda, a reporter at The Oakland Press.
Speaking with WDET’s Sandra Svoboda, Broda described what residents in the Oakland County suburb are most concerned about as they go to the polls to elect city council members this November.
Click on the audio above to hear their full conversation. Here’s a full transcript:
Natalie Broda: I know there are a lot of citizens out there who are really concerned that the Palace does not end up like the Silverdome, which has been referred to as the “giant bird bath in the middle of Pontiac.” A separate issue is the fact that of the approximately 17 square miles that comprise Auburn Hills, there’s really only less than one square mile left to be developed. The thing with Auburn Hills is that it’s primarily an industrial community, lots of corporate world headquarters are based there. That’s primarily where a lot of their tax base comes from. There’s sort of two sides to that coin. On one side, we’re looking to see what’s going to happen with these last couple of acres of land that are left, about 500 acres there. That equates to only six or 10 more projects, according to a recent industrial analysis that was conducted by the city. Essentially Auburn Hills is running out of space so anything they do there is going to have to be heavily considered: Is this what we want to put here that’s going to complete our community. On that same turn of a coin, there are residents questioning whose side the city is on? Is it the businesses or the residents? There’s been some issues with people not wanting parking lots built near their houses for fear of light pollution and lowering their property values. As the city works to kind of deal with how little land is left, it’s this balance between how do we keep a residential tax base and how do we serve our primary tax base which is businesses and corporations.
Sandra Svoboda: For the issues of what to do with the Palace of Auburn Hills and the limited vacant land that’s left in Auburn Hills for development, how will they be addressed by the next City Council after these elections?
NB: It really kind of depends what relationship they’re going to have with Palace Sports & Entertainment. I think the next City Council is going to need to work really hard to stay abreast of what Palace Sports & Entertainment is trying to do with the Palace. They definitely want to see it turned into something that’s going to bring in some major tax revenue.
SS: In your work as a reporter for The Oakland Press, what are you hearing from the residents and the citizens of Auburn Hills about their concerns about their community?
NB: The people of Auburn Hills are pretty happy with their community. It’s definitely doing a lot better than other communities in Oakland County. They definitely have more money, to say, because of all the corporate headquarters there. In a nutshell, it’s that balance between who owns the city? Is it the businesses or is it the residents? I think the residents now are starting to question is it us or is it them that they care about?
SS: Who’s running for Council this fall?
NB: There are seven candidates. Four of them are write-ins and three of them are incumbents coming from a variety of different backgrounds. This fall voters will have to choose between four of them to serve a four-year term. However the fourth highest vote total is only going to be serving a two-year term per the Auburn Hills city ordinance.
SS: Besides the Palace of Auburn Hills and sort of the lack of land and what development or redevelopment will look like in the future, are there other issues on the voters’ minds in Auburn Hills that might be similar or different to other communities in southeast Michigan?
NB: Something that Auburn Hills does share in common with the rest of southeast Michigan and Oakland County is the opioid epidemic and crisis that we’re all kind of facing. I know the police there have just as much a hard time as police in any other community trying to sort of stamp this out.
And traffic. Traffic is still an issue in Auburn Hills.