(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 14, 2017)
Groveland Township, MI – An expert historic road preservation planner from Washington DC visited Oakland County at the beginning of August to take a look at the Dixie Highway corridor to share his views on how smart development could take place.
“Any community that’s successful and interesting is always revisiting the planning process,” Marriott said. “You have a unique resource to organize… If you want to see something you can figure out how to make it happen.”
Oakland County is working on turning a gravel pit into an ORV (Off Road Vehicle) park that will add to the wealth of recreation opportunities in the area. Businesses seeking opportunities along Dixie Hwy. are expected to increase. Planning and zoning are key to creating an area that suits the residents and visitors as opposed to change happening in a piecemeal way with no vision. Marriott shared ideas for what that vision could be, and he encouraged those in attendance to work together on planning.
There are also opportunities to make improvements in the short term. Signage is one of them.
“This is a complex area that has lots of recreation opportunities. The area is already a recreation,” he said. “Driving on Dixie Hwy. it wasn’t obvious to me. There are not many clues.”
Shaping the landscaping to create more inviting views will also let people know they are driving through someplace special and entice them to explore. “There’s so much water bat as someone passing through, you can’t see it. You only see it if you go off the beaten path,” Marriott said. “Some selective pruning could provide some nice views… In Clarkston Mill Pond is right by the road. Dixie Lake is the same thing, but there’s clutter in the way.” There also is not signage or promotion to lure people into the quaint downtowns of Holly and Clarkston, which would benefit local economics and give recreation users access to unique restaurants, shops and activities.
He also suggested that all the agencies involved in the Dixie Hwy area come together in two key ways. One is to create a task force that would explore planning and would include agencies like the local governments, the road commission, MDOT, DNR, Parks and Rec, local government etc. The second idea is to create a visitor’s center that can have information for recreation users.
Marriott spoke about how each agency had information about their facilities online and at their respective locations, but there was not a central source of information about the area.
Route 66 is the classic American Roadway that can provide some good ideas for agencies and developers along the route. He suggested that mid-century-modern-style motels can increase that road trip feeling and give folks a place to stay as they come to the “up north” of Oakland County.
He also suggested peeling off “improvements” that have been made to buildings over the years to reveal historic facades.
Zoning and planning documents can ensure that Dixie Hwy does not turn into a strip mall haven, and even things like a tree ordinance or parking requirements can ensure that even chain stores and restaurants can fit in.
“You need to be very specific about what you want,” he said. They’re [Developers} not going to go away if you want a better setback, better signage and more trees….. They may fight back at first. I promise you, if you stick to your guns they will work with you. Be proud of your community.”
Groveland Township recorded the hour-long presentation, which is full of Marriott’s insights. Check it out below: