In the past five years, median home sale prices in Royal Oak have gone up 70 percent — nearly double the rate of Oakland County. I attribute much of this increase to the new, infill homes being developed in spots throughout the city, predominantly bought by young families. What attracted them to Royal Oak? Many have told me that they came to our city for dining and entertainment when they were single and want to continue to enjoy it as they grow their families. They love our many neighborhood parks. When Main Street was closed to vehicles on Friday nights in June, the street was filled with couples with strollers, and toddlers happily careening down the middle of the street. Royal Oak offers a perfect combination of urban amenities and safe, beautiful neighborhoods.

Oakland County Royal Oak
Median sale price, January 2012 $187,000 $143,950
Median sale price, June, 2017 $256,250 $245,000
Change in median home sale price: January 2012-June 2017 37% 70%

Thanks to Mike and Dawn at Team Ripinski for the stats!

In 2015, Royal Oak citizens overwhelmingly voted to allowed the city to sell 10 acres of the Normandy Oaks golf course to a developer, with the proceeds to serve the public, including a new park in that area and improvements to the Royal Oak Golf Course.

Allocating about two acres for public streets and rights of way is an appropriate use of city-owned land, to serve our new residents. Two public roads will traverse the single family home portion of the development. The north-south road will be an extension of Kent Road and the east-west street has yet to be named. Single family homes will line the two public streets.

The plans for this development including the multi-family component (condos) have been discussed at several plan commission and city commission meetings over the last year. Hundreds of hours of staff time have been devoted to making sure this project meets the intentions of the city with regards to this new neighborhood while protecting and preserving the former golf course/park property. The development is a PUD (Planned Unit Development) which allows the city to negotiate additional requirements of the development above and beyond the minimum zoning requirements in return for other developer requests such as site layout and joint stormwater management system.

Stormwater Management: Our existing ordinance doesn’t require single family homes to detain storm water; only multi-family developments. (Detention: intentionally holding and slowly metering runoff into our sewers). Our development agreement forces detention requirements upon the single-family area, further protecting the city’s combined sewer system. The developer and city worked together to find a solution to both the developer’s need to detain stormwater and the city’s need to do the same for the proposed park, even though we still do not know what features will be in the final park design.  Initially, the city anticipated the desire for some open recreational water features in the park and this became a driving concept for a proposed joint detention and recreational pond.

The existing south pond in the low part of the golf course was the ideal location for a much larger and multi-functional pond. The final development agreement allows Robertson’s residential development to discharge filtered storm water from both the single and the multi-family portions of the property into that pond. The pond is being constructed now because the Robertson development needs a place to send stormwater from their site as it is built.

The new pond was designed with input from the city engineering and their sewer consultants, along with the developer and their design engineers and landscape architects. The desired result will be a gracefully meandering and natural looking area surrounded by the mature trees. It will no longer have steep and dangerous slopes like the old pond. The new pond will also be a better habitat for a variety of plantings and wildlife. Additionally, the city’s consultant for the new Normandy Oaks Park is fully aware of the pond’s function as well as the city’s desired uses and will be incorporating this and other stormwater management features into their final designs.

It should be noted that the MDEQ, which keeps records of all wetlands in the state, has no record of any protected wetlands on the Normandy Oaks site. The old ponds were created to be part of the golf course as design features in the 1990s. They were not intended to remedy any stormwater deficiency and not used for irrigation.

Trees: While numerous trees were removed for the Robertson site development, only five trees are being removed for the creation of the new pond. Robertson will be required to plant at least 90 new street (public right-of-way) trees in and around the single and the multi-family development.

Soil erosion and dust. The developer has been required to install soil erosion silt fencing around the perimeter of the development site and all other areas they are currently impacting. A large stockpile of excavated soils is sitting in an area on the east side of the proposed Kent Road extension, where the new single family homes will be built. The developer is also working to control dust by spraying water on areas of disturbed soil where vehicles are driving.

In the next few weeks, the pond excavation will be completed and public sewer and water utilities will be installed in the two new streets as well as within the multi-family site.


“Why are we building big office buildings downtown?” “Why do we have all those bars and restaurants?” “Why can’t Royal Oak be like it was before?” I hear those questions often when I talk with voters. Here’s how I answer.

When I moved to Royal Oak in 1990, downtown was dead. People would say, “You could shoot a cannon down Main Street and not hit anyone.” Royal Oak was feeling the same retail pain that affected all traditional downtowns, starting in the 1950s and 1960s. People wanted to shop where they had many choices. They went to shopping malls and no longer valued iconic retailers like Field’s and Woolworth.

Royal Oak’s civic leaders rose to the challenge. They created one of Michigan’s early downtown tax increment finance districts, in which the increased taxes from new developments stayed downtown to foster even more growth. Food and beverage establishments are innovative and adaptive and they were the first to rediscover the advantages of our downtown. With a Starbucks on every corner these days, who remembers when coffee shops were a novelty? Royal Oak pioneered them in metro Detroit.

While our bars attract young people, our downtown restaurants and entertainment venues attract people of all ages. They enjoy barbeque, Italian, seafood, American bistros, fine wine, craft beer, sushi, Mediterranean, Iron Chef-worthy burgers, tacos, pizza, charcuterie and more. They go to Stagecrafters, the Royal Oak Music Theater, Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, the Main Art Theater and Emagine. They attend family-friendly free concerts at the library and on Center Street and on Fridays in June they experienced Main Street as a car-free urban plaza. They visit the Clay, Glass and Metal Fair and Arts, Beats and Eats.

What does all that mean to Royal Oak who seldom go downtown? Property values. Home sale prices. People want to live in our popular city and they’re willing to pay for the privilege. Some new houses in old neighborhoods sell for more than a half million dollars. Modest bungalows go for $200,000.

But what about that lost retail? For years, downtown retailers – and restaurants – have asked for daytime customers. Several years ago a task force of city officials and downtown representatives agreed on a goal to attract 180,000 square feet of private, first class office space downtown. We are close to achieving that goal. In two years, we will have more than 1,000 office workers eating lunch and shopping downtown. They will help preserve the charming small establishments that make Royal Oak Royal Oak. Some will want to live in the city, further improving property values.

These opportunities also opened the door for Royal Oak to achieve another city commission goal — the creation of a downtown park – and to solve a big problem: our obsolete, aging city hall and police station. Those new structures will better serve residents and reduce operating costs. A new parking deck will accommodate office workers on weekdays, dining and entertainment customers in the evening and Farmer’s Market and flea market shoppers on the weekends.

What makes Royal Oak Royal Oak? I think it’s our people. We can love living in a traditional city while still being open to new experiences and welcoming new people. We have created an extraordinarily successful, popular, desirable community. People want to live, work and play here.  I am confident we can grow enough to welcome them while still retaining Royal Oak’s unique human qualities.

SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, and its partner organization, the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition (MAC), have launched a survey to gather residents’ perceptions on semi- and fully-autonomous vehicle technology that will shape the future of how Southeast Michigan travels.

Citizens are asked to take this quick survey. Responses will help guide regional planning efforts focused on transportation, economic development, and the environment.

This Daily Tribune article summarizes my appeal to Royal Oak property owners to donate proceeds from a citywide lawsuit to the city’s foundation. I’m pledging more than my proceeds from the suit. I’ll give $100 to the foundation. It support some of our most-loved programs: The animal shelter, Orson Starr House, nature society, arts commission and senior, recreation and public safety needs. Please join me!