State of Orion Township Speech Focuses on Community Wins, Future Plans
(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 23, 2023)
Orion Township, MI – From the top of the Orion water tower, Supervisor Chris Barnett can see the community laid out before him like a famous board game, with properties zoned for homes and business, roads with sentimental names, infrastructure for utilities, a place to pay one’s taxes, and space for those on their way to jail.
Monopoly was the theme for Wednesday morning’s State of Orion Township address. In addition to donning a top hat, monocle, and bow tie for an entrance in a cardboard token car, Barnett took attendees square by square through what’s new in the community.
Development was a big part of the game, and the water tower provides the best bird’s eye view of the biggest building project Orion has seen – the expansion of General Motor’s and the conversion of the plant to produce the Chevy Silverado electric pickup truck. A camera on the tower has been capturing the progress. Inside the existing plant, about a thousand employees are excited for the investment and the long-term stability it provides for those on the line. The 1,000 or so current workers will be joined by 2,300 more when the addition is complete.
Other projects include the recently opened Meijer grocery store, Kay Industrial, Hyatt House, and Culvers on Brown Road. Willow Creek will add 104 multifamily units with 15 buildings at the old Willow Creek Driving Range on Lapeer Road. Rigel Terrace will add 101 townhomes, also on Lapeer Road. Waldon Reserve, on the south side of Waldon east of Giddings, will add 15 condominiums. Lavender Ridge is a multifamily development at Squirrel and Silverbell boasting 75% open space and parklands.
The Ponds of Orion will add 44 apartments in ten buildings on the south side of Clarkston Road, between M24 and Bald Mountain Road, with an emphasis on a setting with multiple ponds. The Pearl is a mixed use development with 208 residential units plus ground level retail. Baldwin Village is another mixed use development coming to Baldwin Road, that’s expected to include the township’s first Chic-Fil-A.
And what game of Monopoly would be complete without the addition of a hotel? Orion Township has one in the works. The Hyatt Hotel on Brown Road will add local accommodations for travelers, including executives for the big companies like GM, as well as much-needed gather space for conferences and other events.
The Township has a page for those wanting to know more about what’s being built around down, which readers can find here.
The fun of Monopoly is not just gloating over the accumulation of pieces, but of the journey around the board. And that can be the bumpiest part of Orion Township, as some roads remain old and crumbling.
Unlike the brightly colored strips of paper Orionopoly money that can just be printed, dollars for resurfacing projects can be harder to come by. Yet Orion Township has been finding ways to smooth things over.
In addition to the award-winning investment on Baldwin Road, Orion is poised for improvements with over $12 million in funding for construction on Giddings, Silverbell, and Brown Road. In addition to the Orion Assembly Plant, this corridor supports other large employers in the area, including FedEx, Eagle Valley Landfill, Gardner White Furniture, JR Automation (Esys), Natrabis, Powers Distributing, Roush Industries, and Asea Brown Boveri Ltd (ABB).
But there is more to Monopoly than just what players can build.
The Community Chest part of the game inspires contributions to the greater good. In a community that celebrates charity and protecting the environment, there were lots of wins this past year.
To solidify the spirit of a Community Chest, Supervisor Barnett announced the launch of the Orion Community Foundation, a nonprofit with a focus on funding good deeds and filling needs within the community. Details will be released in the coming weeks about the new organization, which will be fueled by donations from individuals and businesses.
The presentation honored community member successes, and Township points of pride.
Miracle Field, which hosts games for people with special needs, won the 2023 Great Lakes Park, Facility, or Program Award. The Township also won an American in Bloom Award for Community Vitality. The Baldwin Road Reconstruction, which included replacing stop lights with roundabouts and adding more pedestrian features, streetscaping, and pocket parks, won the 2022 Project of the Year.
Orion celebrated being a Tree City USA for the third year in a row, boasting over $254,000 in tree investments.
Another big win was a $250,000 grant which will be used to build an event deck at Orion Center. This along with a beach expansion at Camp Agawam and volleyball courts being added at the old township hall site this summer mean more ways to connect people in the great outdoors, in a place with a motto of “where living is a vacation.”
Barnett also recognized three Orion Township residents selected for Oakland County’s 40 Under 40 Class: Christopher Hagan who is a Captain and Paramedic with the Orion Township Fire Department, Matt Shell is US Tax Counsel of Magna International, and Shadi Alawneh who is an assistant professor at Oakland University.
Efforts like Pine Tree Center and Dutton Farm were included to spotlight work done to support those with disabilities.
In the audience for the presentation, along with his gigantic trophy, was Jose Botto who is as World Champion Boccee player. And each month the Township celebrates a group or individual at a board meeting for the goodness they bring to the community.
The presentation ended with a shower of Orionopoly dollars raining on audience members, yet in real life Barnett, the Board of Trustees, and the Township staff take the stewardship of those dollars seriously. A slide shows the cost of local governance per capita, The per capita spending in Orion Township was $502 in 2022. In Oxford that amount is $567. In Independence Township it’s $679. Waterford is $720. The Village of Lake Orion is $804. Rochester Hills is $839. And in Auburn Hills the number is $1,452.
The “winning formula,” the Supervisor said is “great people, excellent schools, a thriving economy, a vision for the future, key strategic partnerships, lots of heart, and more fun that we should be allowed to have and we do it for a lot less.”
The full video presentation is available on Orion Township’s Facebook Page.
Learn more about Orion Township at https://www.oriontownship.org.