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Old 02-04-2017, 11:35 AM
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In the past few weeks it's been looking more and more like i'm going to have to move to Metro D. Given what I do it's only natural that I would get sent to the mother ship at some point. I've been familiar with the Detroit area my whole life, I've just never actually lived there. As I'm exploring where I want to live I keep gravitating to the Royal Oak area. What got my attention is how fragmented the former Royal Oak township has become, and how many different municipalities exist in quite a small area.

Data set


I've long been a proponent of city/village/township consolidation, so I consider myself biased in this. What purpose does it serve to have 10 different municipal governments in 38sq mi? Would there be a political war among the resident bases of these cities, if it were ever proposed to consolidate them? How many millions of taxpayer dollars could be redirected to infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads, if there weren't several different redundant services and administrations serving such a small area. A larger entity would be more cohesively on zoning, and attracting redevelopment, perhaps even furthering Royal Oaks reputation as a destination.

Had these cities been one entity, it would have had more people, with less land area than Grand Rapids in the latest census. Even though current estimates show Grand Rapids larger, the current configuration is still more dense, and potentially could still have a larger population when the 2020 census comes out. Had they been one municipality in 1970(the decade where most of them peaked in population) it would have been one of the 40 largest cities in the country at the time, the original mega suburb. Has there ever been any talk of consolidating them? I've long felt Michigan cities would be well served by eliminating so many of these redundant suburban governments, that were really created to spite the core city. It would create cities that more represent their respective land areas, instead of being landlocked with an artificially small population.

Has anyone ever looked into this before?
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Old 02-04-2017, 01:08 PM
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The original Royal Oak Township before the build-up of cities and municipal governments was bounded by 14 Mile, Dequindre, 8-Mile, and Greenfield and roughly today compromise where are roughly the "Woodward 5" / Woodward corridor / Inner-ring suburbs of Oakland County.

The first population stats you post are rather interesting since these communities have been almost entirely built-out since the 1960's and today still remain for the most part entirely populated. The biggest reason for the population decline is changing dynamics that impact everyone in the country - smaller family size, delayed/older marriage age & babies, a broader mix of living situations and relationship arrangements. The population in these communities reflect the Post-WWII baby boom generation that led to large population numbers in these communities in the 1950-1970s. On my street when I lived in Royal Oak there were still a handful of the original residents that are now in their late-80s that said,"back in the 1960s there were a hundred kids on this block". Now in 2016 there was maybe about 10 at best.

Regarding municipal government consolidation, there is no way it will ever completely happen for these communities at least all of them into one unified government. The population is simply too high, too much politics, and different philosphies and desires of each of the various communities you mention. Huntington Woods & Pleasant Ridge residents think of themselves as more exclusive enclaves that do not see an issue with paying higher property taxes to support the level of services to support a community of their size. Berkley is large enough in its own right to support itself and residents tend to have a more community-minded approach to their city. Clawson in the past has had financial troubles but has found ways to make changes and also is seeing a resurgance in housing prices, younger residents, and new businesses that is kind of a cheaper version of Royal Oak and is trending upward from where it was 10 years ago.
Royal Oak would never go for it and the dynamics are much different for them with the massive police burden required to patrol and manage the downtown area and Woodward Ave compared to some of the other communities.

Now there are opportunities for consolidation of services without outright consolidation of government and some of that is already done today. Police, fire, libraries, and other types of services can be consolidated where appropriate to get the necessary scale to achieve reasonable cost rates.

It may even be more viable to look at school district consolidation instead of government consolidation. Clawson school district really should just be part of Royal Oak schools for example.

This wouldn't necessarily be the first area in the state I'd suggest for this to happen, there are far too many small municipal governments and school districts in more rural parts of the state that can't support themselves financially and/or struggle to find competent leadership.
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Old 02-05-2017, 07:51 PM
Location: Metro Detroit
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That's a really interesting analysis. I'd add reputation, but I can't (you apparently do a lot of good analyses...)

According to what I've read the reason the township split into so many different towns is due to racism. When the area near 8 Mile and Wyoming, that is still part of the charter township, was settled, it was settled as a segregated Black factory-worker community. The rest of the township was (and still is) disproportionately White. Due to this various neighborhoods within the township began establishing city charters in order to separate themselves from the "Black" area near 8 Mile and Wyoming. That's really quite sad in my humble opinion, but I wasn't around in the 1940's. I can't judge the decisions of people then with my 2017 perspective on life, but I can hope it wouldn't happen again today.

I too would be a fan of reintegration of cities, but like DTWFlyer says, it just couldn't ever happen. Having lived in two of these towns and home-shopped in 5 of them, they're all just too different at this point. Royal Oak and Berkley I really could see as one town. That wouldn't be a stretch. A lot of people think all Royal Oak is, is its downtown area, and while that is the town's most identifiable feature, when you get out into the neighborhoods it's very similar to Berkley. The Northwoods area is nearly indistinguishable from more upscale parts of Berkley like St. Johns Woods, while the area north of 12 and east of Main (Livernois) is indistinguishable from most of Berkley, other than its lack of a walkable area like Berkley has along 12 Mile or Coolidge. I personally could see the two towns merging without issue, though I can guarantee you that the population of Berkley is far too proud of Berkley, its advantages, and its history - to ever become part of Royal Oak.

Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge could reasonably become upscale neighborhoods of Royal Oak, but again - there's just that feeling of town pride that exists in both and it's terribly obvious. Residents of the cities wouldn't want to be known as the Pleasant Ridge subdivision of Royal Oak. It simply wouldn't go over with them.

Ferndale and Hazel Park could merge from an economics perspective, but politically Hazel Park is moderate while Ferndale is quite possibly the farthest left town in the state. This would cause issues, so it'll never happen.

Northern Oak Park is culturally very similar to Berkley, but the idea that part of the city could leave to join another city is unreasonable. Plus property values are not similar as Northern Oak Park is much more affordable, though they do share a school district.

Clawson is very conservative compared to the rest of the former township. This was a turn off for us when shopping homes in Clawson. We found that we probably wouldn't see eye to eye with established neighbors on certain social issues. Due to this I have a hard time imagining Clawson merging with any other town it borders in the near future. The future may establish a more moderate or liberal Clawson, and this wouldn't surprise me, but as it exists today it simply won't happen.

Madison Heights is a great little town, but because of its more Warren-esque strip mall layout and property values I can't imagine it merging with any of the other towns it borders. That being said I have no idea why Madison Heights isn't more desirable. It's a great town with a decent housing stock and a lot going for it. The only reason we didn't end up there was due to the lack of a real walkable area.

The charter township is sad and real evidence of the fact that racism is still alive and prevalent today. A decade or so ago the township still had two separate parts. The northern part (predominantly White with a large Jewish community) was accepted into the City of Oak Park while the working class Black part is still that tiny little enclave of township which since we all know would never be incorporated into Oak Park or Ferndale. In my opinoin, it should look at incorporation into Detroit. We all know Detroit has its own economic woes, but a township of 2,500 people, primarily of working class, simply isn't sustainable regardless of how many city services it shares with Ferndale and Oak Park and Detroit itself has a bright future. I believe both municipalities would benefit from such a relationship, but certain Oakland County types may not care for the idea the Detroit is also in Oakland County.
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Old 02-06-2017, 09:37 AM
Location: my little town
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I expect something will be improvised as the rising cost of fuel empties the suburbs.
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Old 02-06-2017, 09:49 AM
Location: Metro Detroit
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...? As far as commutes go, these specific suburbs are probably the best places to live in the metro. You can get to all the major job centers in Detroit, Southfield, Troy, and Warren in under 10 miles. If we were talking about South Lyon or Clarkston you might have my support, but if anything these towns would benefit from rising fuel costs, and in some ways I believe they already have.
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Old 02-06-2017, 10:56 AM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
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It is very common for a township to divide up as its towns or villages grow up and become cities. The people decide they are large enough they have different priorities from the rural surrounding areas and want self-governance. Take a look at Brownstown Township. How did a township get broken up into all kinds of disconnected bits like that? Brownstown township is made up of the remaining bits left over after the former included cities grew up and incorporated. There was another township int he area Managuan or something like that that is completely gone now.

Is it surprising that towns and villages or areas of Royal Oak township grew up and became their own municipality? No. It is the normal evolution of a township. Want to see it happen again? Keep an eye on Lyon Township for the next 30 years. Maybe less.
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Old 02-06-2017, 05:04 PM
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I wouldn't think the same dynamic that created the fracturing of Royal Oak Twp. in the 40's-60's exists today. Does anyone even know the last time a city was chartered in Michigan? Lyon is already a charter twp. so I don't think it would be that easy for it to be divided anymore politically.
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Old 02-06-2017, 06:01 PM
Location: Here.
14,551 posts, read 13,280,269 times
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I'd like to address some of the misconceptions on this thread:

1. "...how fragmented the former Royal Oak township has become..." This happend a long time ago. "Has become" implies this is ongoing, which is false.

2. "How many millions of taxpayer dollars could be redirected to infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads, if there weren't several different redundant services and administrations serving such a small area?" Please tell us, because I would like to know. I don't believe there is any evidence of this, but I would love to be proved wrong.

3. "According to what I've read the reason the township split into so many different towns is due to racism." You're talking about the current Royal Oak Township. mjlo is talking about Royal Oak. Royal Oak and its surrounding communities were once part of a 36 square mile area called Royal Oak Township. That older township was not divided because of racism. It was never really divided. Townships are generally farmland. When people start to settle in one particular area, they have the option of incorporating into a city. This was not driven by racism, but by the simple process of suburbanization, in which people wanted to get away from the predominantly white city of Detroit and live in a small village-like community. In the case of the current Royal Oak Township, it is what was left over after the other cities incorporated. The second area that was annexed to Oak Park a few years ago was non-contiguous with the current Royal Oak Township and so was not really fragmented from it. I don't know about the racial aspect you mentioned. That's the first I've heard. Since you read it somewhere, perhaps you could share with us where you read it.

4. "I expect something will be improvised as the rising cost of fuel empties the suburbs." How so? Are you suggesting that people will move into the city, which is further from where they work, shop, etc. and would thus have to spend more on fuel to get there? Makes no sense.

Last edited by mjlo; 02-06-2017 at 08:10 PM.. Reason: Discussing moderation
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Old 02-09-2017, 08:23 PM
Location: Metro Detroit
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Retroit is correct on many of his points, and since we agree so seldom you know that it's true . The 6 mile by 6 mile former township of Royal Oak has been in its current state for many decades (well, other than Oak Park eating part of the township in 200..4?). Berkley or Madison Heights or Ferndale being distinct from Royal Oak is not something new. The reason the towns split off in the manner of which they did is because that's where cultural boundaries existed at the time. Also the towns do frequently share services where appropriate. SOCWA provides water for all the towns. SOCCRA provides waste and recycling services. Many municipal facilities are shared, such as Berkley and Oak Park sharing a pool. Also I agree that property values in inner-ring suburbs will certainly not fall. If anything I expect them to rise as fuel costs rise (if they do, the current administration seems very pro-extraction). Exurbs may become less desireable if gas returns to $4-5, but places like Royal Oak, Warren, or Livonia will become desirable for people looking to avoid the city, but not wanting to spend $15 a day on their commute.

I do stand by my claim that racism played a part in the multiple towns within the township though. I can't seem to rediscover the source at the moment, but I've read that the remaining portion of Royal Oak Township (at 8 Mile and Wyoming) being established as a working class Black community was very off-putting to the predominantly White residents of the township at the time, and this is why they were so willing to split up to create their own neighborhood sized towns. I recognize that the northern area of Royal Oak TWP was non-contiguous, but this brings up the question of why was this (predominantly White) area of the township accepted into the City of Oak Park, while the other area of the township was not? You may argue property values had a lot to do with this, and I'd agree there, but why are the property values so low at 8 Mile and Wyoming? One could venture a guess and say it has to do with the reason of why property values nearly triple once you cross 8 mile elsewhere and again double in the entire former township once you go north of 696. As much as we as a society like to play like we don't, we still have a long way to go on race relations.
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Old 02-10-2017, 07:08 AM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
27,759 posts, read 65,587,794 times
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Originally Posted by mjlo View Post
Does anyone even know the last time a city was chartered in Michigan?
The newest I can find is Auburn Hills in 1983. There must be some newer ones.

I can see Lyon Township dividing into New Hudson, Salem, South Lyon East, and then whatever is left over. I know sometimes growing up people out where we lived were a bit miffed about being governed from New Hudson and the apparent focus on the needs and issues of New Hudson while much of the rest of the township was p[hysically distant and had very different needs and wants.
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