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Farmington Mayor Joe LaRussa releases his State of the City Address

Farmington Mayor Joe LaRussa will present his first State of the City address at an event held today by the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce.  LaRussa, who has served on Farmington’s City Council since 2017, was unanimously appointed as Mayor by the Council in November 2023.  His address will highlight 2023 accomplishments and look forward to upcoming projects and initiatives that will continue the city’s redevelopment and growth. 

Highlights from the speech include:
  • Residential property values have risen an average of 6.6% per year, and projections for 2024 show another increase of 8.1%.  Similar trends exist in commercial and industrial property sectors, with 2024 property values forecasted to increase 4.7% and 5.7%, respectively.
  • The city received close to $5M in grants, crowdfunding, and special project funds to amplify its efforts and help achieve its goals.
  • On a weighted average basis, a typical DTE customer in Farmington has seen a 77% reduction in power outage frequency and a 67% reduction in power outage duration since 2021.
  • Housing growth in Farmington will total 1.65% over the next five years, substantially faster than forecasted growth rates of 2.5% over the next 25 years.
  • Farmington’s bicentennial will be celebrated all year long, with a kickoff event on March 8th at the Farmington Brewing Company with the release of the 1824 Farmhouse Ale and an accompanying pub crawl.
  • The Farmington Road Streetscape project has been honored with the Quality of Life Project of the Year award from the Detroit Metro Branch of the American Public Works Association
The full speech is included here for reference.  Mayor LaRussa says the speech is “a clear summary of the strength of the city and the strength of its future.”  He went on to say that “Farmington’s continued success is the direct result of its thorough planning processes, constructive engagement with public and private partners, and the work of hundreds of volunteers who make our community special.”

For more information, contact Melissa Andrade at Farmington City Hall or Mayor LaRussa directly.
The City of Farmington, Michigan                                              Mayor Joe LaRussa
248-474-5500                                                                          313-492-8559
mandrade@farmgov.com                                                            jlarussa@farmgov.com

 
Farmington’s State of the City
Good morning, and welcome to all our residents, business owners, visitors, and friends.  We’re here today to consider the state of our cities, and though the privilege falls to me to speak to such a matter on behalf of the City of Farmington, the credit for the message belongs to the entirety of our community. I’m here to tell you, the State of our City is undeniably STRONG. 
The City of Farmington is a welcoming community known for the connectedness and engagement of its residents, business owners, and community partners; the quality of its diverse neighborhoods and interactive public spaces; the economic viability of its thriving commercial districts; and sustainable and reliable city services.
Our boards and commissions work to make our city a desirable place to live and own a business.  Strong planning processes, connectivity, and constructive engagement give us the opportunity to benefit from public and private partnerships.  Our city embodies community resilience with strong fiscal discipline, commitment to public health, arts and culture, and a focus on infrastructure renewal.  Farmington holds high standards for its built environment contributing to a pride of property ownership, sense of place, and an aesthetic combining history and modern design. <CLICK MOUSE>
The clear evidence of Farmington’s strength lies, first and foremost, in the steady increase in property values within the city.  Residential property values have risen an average of 6.6% per year, and projections for 2024 show another increase of 8.1%.  Similar trends exist in commercial and industrial property sectors, with 2024 property values forecasted to increase 4.7% and 5.7%, respectively.  These positive long-term trends are a result of <CLICK MOUSE> increased economic development in Farmington, <CLICK MOUSE> solid municipal finance and planning processes, <CLICK MOUSE> and strong collaboration. 
Permitted work in 2023 representing an estimated $8.4M in property investment is just one of the underlying economic development factors driving this trend.  Farmington’s continued AA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s, strong economy and diverse tax base also contribute. 
Maybe the most telling result of all of this is the faith that others have placed in us with their resources.  Because of Farmington’s strength and collaborative spirit, the city received close to $5M in grants, crowdfunding, and special project funds to amplify our efforts and help us achieve our goals.  I’d like to thank City Manager Dave Murphy and City Treasurer Chris Weber for their leadership and support to ensure Farmington attracts these types of opportunities, and for being effective and efficient stewards of the community’s resources. <CLICK MOUSE>
Other points of strength for Farmington lie in the two departments charged with keeping everyone safe, and making sure everything works.  Farmington Public Safety, led by Director Bob Houhanisin, continues a strong tradition of community policing and constructive engagement.  Programs like “Caught Being Safe” and “Police and Pancakes” add to the visibility of our public safety officers and sustain a positive community presence. To ensure the continued success of the Public Safety department, <CLICK MOUSE> the city in 2023 invested in updated patrol vehicles, new sidearms, and body cameras that help protect our public safety officers while increasing the responsiveness and productivity of the department and its leadership via the use of streaming video and cloud-based storage.
The Department of Public Works, <CLICK MOUSE> led by Superintendent Chuck Eudy, also took delivery of a new vehicle…”Truck #9”.  (I’ll be sure to ask him about trucks 1-8).  As you can see, this truck is equipped with substantial upgrades including an extended snow plow, making the team more efficient in clearing the roads.  <CLICK MOUSE> The team in Public Works does its utmost each day to ensure that all of Farmington’s buildings and grounds, water and sewer infrastructure, parks and green spaces, and of course streets and sidewalks are in their best shape.  As they do their work, this team also functions like a sort of infrastructure CSI unit, uncovering long forgotten (and undocumented) things under our streets like old wooden watermains, interurban rail tracks, and more.  Then they have to figure out how to keep projects moving despite these discoveries. My hat’s off to this team of dedicated pros who keep our city in tip-top shape. <CLICK MOUSE>
Farmington residents also did their part to help the city by ensuring we continue to lead in recycling and waste diversion.  9.5 tons of household hazardous waste and 873 tons of curbside recycled material helped our city achieve more than double the total recycling rate in Michigan.  And we did it spending about half as much as the regional average!  These results translate into real environmental impact, reducing the city’s overall CO2 emissions by 2,351 metric tons!  Thank you to each and every resident and business owner who helped us achieve these impressive results.
Well, it wouldn’t be 2024 if we didn’t talk about elections. <CLICK MOUSE> Last year Farmington swore in its <CLICK MOUSE> new city clerk, Meaghan Bachmann, who took the torch from Mary Mullison. <CLICK MOUSE> Meaghan has hit the ground literally running because of all the election updates that were mandated with the passage of Proposal 2 back in 2022, enshrining voting-related policies in the State Constitution.  <CLICK MOUSE> The enabling legislation for these voting policies comprised 42 separate bills, many of which became effective on February 13th of this year, just two weeks before the presidential primary election.  <CLICK SIX TIMES> The entire team in the Clerk’s Office, along with a team of skilled poll workers rose to the occasion, implementing processes and procedures to ensure that Farmington’s elections continue to set the standard for voting security, transparency, and professionalism.  In an era where elections matter more than ever, I’m grateful and proud of our team in the Clerk’s Office. <CLICK MOUSE>
Just outside the bustle of City Hall is our Farmington Community Library, a community hub for our two cities. Both FCL locations serve as central public spaces offering resources and experiences that celebrate ideas, inspire creativity, and enrich lives.  It’s worth mentioning that in 2023, the Library signed up 6,396 new cardholders. Over half of the households in our community have an FCL card and on average each household checks out 55 items from the Library each year.
These items are not just books. Community members borrow laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, lawn games, STEM and play kits for children, movies, eBooks, and more. This fiscal year, the Library is well on its way to circulating one million items throughout the community!
It's clear that the physical space provided by the Library is just as valuable as the resources. Last year, the Library was visited over 300,000 times. There are as many reasons to visit the Library as there are community members. The Library welcomes community members for English as a Second Language classes, one-on-one technology assistance, small business networking, parent workshops, teens-only lock-ins, and so much more.
If you live, work, or go to school in Farmington or Farmington Hills, you are eligible for an FCL Card. Get one today and take advantage of this rich resource in our community. <CLICK MOUSE>
For all these signs of current strength in our city, I also say to all of you that the future of Farmington is bright and full of opportunity.  <CLICK MOUSE> One of Farmington’s signature historic properties, the Governor Warner Mansion, has long been the backdrop for numerous wedding, prom, homecoming, and family portraits.  The mansion and grounds have historically been hamstringed in their use by various factors, and are in need of substantial investment.  <CLICK MOUSE> In 2023 we acquired the Church of Christ, Scientist property adjoining the mansion’s west grounds.  This strategic acquisition now provides the mansion options for future use, and I’ve called on the City Council to pursue that future, <CLIK MOUSE> taking into account the comprehensive feedback we’ve received from community stakeholders and residents, <CLICK MOUSE> and considering design options that may improve the use of the mansion, carriage house, and grounds. <CLICK MOUSE> The other key enabler for the future of the mansion is a $1M appropriation from the State of Michigan, which State Senator Mary Cavanagh and State Representative Jason Hoskins secured for us and presented to the city last year.  These funds, a direct result of constructive engagement with our state legislators, along with the acquisition of the church will be crucial to executing our future state for the mansion.  Thank you to Senator Cavanagh and Representative Hoskins for your leadership in preserving Farmington and Michigan history, and investing in our shared future.
<CLICK MOUSE> City Hall saw an investment of a different sort.  Our municipal HQ was transformed into an art gallery thanks to the work of the Farmington Area Arts Commission.  <CLICK MOUSE> Commissioner Lisa Ferencz spearheaded this initiative and the efforts of Mayor Pro Tem Johnna Balk ensured it became a reality.  Thank you to both commission members for making City Hall more vibrant, and showcasing so many talented local artists.  You are all invited to an upcoming artists reception on March 21 at City Hall, so mark your calendars and we’ll see you there!
I know these next photos may trigger some anxiety for those who lived through Farmington’s signature project that was finished in 2023.  <CLICK MOUSE> The Farmington Road Streetscape had been on the shelf for years as an unaffordable wish that left our Downtown looking unfinished and lacking cohesion.  <CLICK MOUSE> The combined leadership of the City Council, Downtown Development Authority, and Administration coupled with a decision by the residents to implement a capital improvement millage in 2019 helped finally make this transformational project a reality!  <CLICK MOUSE> While construction is always disruptive in the short term, the long-term positive impact of investments like the streetscape project are undeniable.  <CLICK MOUSE> Farmington Road’s new look places a priority on people while accommodating vehicles, which is a 180 from its prior incarnation as a five-lane county road that prioritized vehicular traffic and accommodated pedestrians.  This project spurred additional private investment of almost $10M with new businesses coming to the city like GLP Financial Advisors and La Pecora Nera, and long-standing ones like Jill’s Pharmacy investing in a relocation upgrade with more visibility.  The streetscape has received critical acclaim from infrastructure professionals, including the Quality of Life Project of the Year from the Detroit Metro Branch of the American Public Works Association.  We expect more recognition as news spreads about the success of the project.
<CLICK MOUSE> More transformation is on the horizon as we collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation on a potential redevelopment of the former Castle Dental property on Farmington Road near CVS, an additional multimillion-dollar project that will bring more reasons to spend time in Downtown Farmington.  The property was recently sold to local buyers who used to ride their bikes past this location, demonstrating a full-circle of impact from those who grew up here now investing in their hometown.  DDA Executive Director Kate Knight is a catalytic leader for these projects in Downtown Farmington, and she continuously ensures Farmington is well-positioned for collaboration with Oakland County and MEDC.  The city is fortunate to have her leadership at City Hall.
Speaking of Downtown Farmington <CLICK MOUSE>, it’s booming as usual.  With its slate of programming and focus on the future with a project pipeline that is the envy of many other communities, the district is an engine for growth that provides a strong sense of pride and solidifies Farmington’s spirit of self-determination.
Farmington’s future is reflected in regional planning discussions too.  The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) recently released it’s 2050 forecast for the region and breaks it down by community.  Their forecast shows Farmington growing its household base by 2.5% in the next 25 years.  I’m happy to report today that Farmington will reach this growth at a substantially faster pace, adding two-thirds of the projected housing units over the next five years.  Two key projects are responsible for this positive result.  <CLLICK MOUSE> The first was another project-in-waiting that is closer to reality than it has ever been.  The Maxfield Training Center property will become “Hillside Townes” by Roberston Brothers, bringing 53 new townhomes to the center of Farmington.  This project is transformational in many respects, not only adding housing but also serving as the vehicle for a total reconstruction of Thomas Street, <CLICK MOUSE> with water and utility infrastructure upgrades as well as walkability improvements.  The project is also a springboard for a federally-funded community project to add an ADA compliant connection to Shiawassee Park.  Constructive engagement with Congresswoman Haley Stevens brought $2.1M in federal resources back to Farmington to amplify the work we already had planned, a synergy that wouldn’t have been identified without active leadership from City Council and administration.  I want to thank Councilman and former Mayor Steve Schneemann for his personal attention to this project and the substantial time and talent he has invested to move it forward. 
<CLICK MOUSE> The second project is the Legion Square redevelopment which will add another 30 housing units.  Planned for the site of the current American Legion building, our building and planning department led by Director Kevin Christiansen has been heavily engaged to ensure a solid plan for this site and the new residents and families who will no doubt love the city of Farmington.  My thanks to Director Christiansen for his leadership and deep knowledge of the city that have had a remarkable impact on both the Legion Square and the Maxfield Training Center redevelopments.
<CLICK MOUSE> Farmington’s future is further enabled by its utility infrastructure.  I’m proud to have been on the ground floor of a key initiative between the two cities to bring an open, fiber-optic cable internet network to Farmington.  Serving with the Joint Municipal Broadband Task Force and collaborating with Farmington Hills to reach an agreement with SiFi Networks to make this project a reality has been some of the most gratifying policy work I’ve ever done. It’s also an economic development and growth game-changer.  The project will increase competition for a utility we all need, because no one will use less internet five years from now than they’re using today.  And when elements of competition are present, prices go down and quality goes up.  The construction technique that SiFi will use will be minimally invasive, but allow for an almost 100% underground installation, limiting the effects of extreme weather.  The network will also benefit from a location near the street as opposed to traditional utility easements at the rear of dense housing rows, enabling faster maintenance and less disturbance from other utility providers that occupy space on utility poles.  SiFi has already begun construction in Farmington Hills, and we expect them to come to Farmington this year, so keep an eye on the city’s social media and website for more information.
Beyond internet infrastructure, Farmington has continued its constructive engagement with DTE Energy to address the frequency and duration of power outages in our city.  <CLICK MOUSE> Over the past three years we’ve been meeting regularly with the operations and community outreach teams at DTE. This has resulted in an increase in tree trimming and equipment upgrades to improve the performance of the circuits that serve Farmington.  I’m pleased to report that on a weighted average basis, a typical DTE customer has seen a 77% reduction in outage frequency and a 67% reduction in outage duration since 2021. <CLICK MOUSE> While we still have some individual circuits that have not experienced this dramatic of an improvement, I remain confident that our ongoing communication and collaboration with DTE will yield additional positive results for Farmington residents and businesses.
<CLICK MOUSE> Walkability has long been an attractive benefit of living and working in Farmington. This benefit is so integral to the city that we formed a Pathways committee to focus on it and they too, have been helping Farmington shape its future.  The committee is participating in a collaborative project with other municipalities to create a pedestrian-friendly connection between I-275 and I-75 that runs along 9 Mile Road.  9 Mile cuts across many neighboring cities like Farmington Hills, Novi, Southfield, and Oak Park.  Our committee’s participation was integral to shaping how this path will cross through Farmington.  We wanted not only a way to continue a trek, bike ride, or training run east or west directly through the city, but also an opportunity for those traversing the 9 Mile Pathway in a more leisurely way to spend time in our Downtown.  The map you’re seeing shows multiple options for runners, walkers, and bike-riders to choose their own adventure and see more of the city if they’d like.  When this plan comes to fruition, residents and businesses will benefit from even more multi-modal transportation options and an even more walkable city.  Before joining City Council in November, Kevin Parkins was actively involved on this committee helping us position ourselves to be a part of this project.  His involvement, along with Councilwoman Maria Taylor and Treasurer Chris Weber, has helped make this plan stronger and put Farmington in the middle of this walkability conversation, right where we should be.
<CLICK MOUSE> New visitors traveling these pathways on a Saturday will surely take the detour to the center of the city, where our award-winning Farmers Market will await them with fresh produce, artisanal gifts, and programming each week that promotes health and wellness through good nutrition and an active lifestyle.  Our market has been voted the best Farmers Market for seven years straight in Local 4’s Vote for the Best contest, and the market also celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2023.  30 years of supporting farmers, 30 years of community, 30 years of helping kids learn where food comes from, and 30 years of delight on any given Saturday.  The thanks of a grateful city go to Market Master Walt Gajewski and his huge team of volunteers that pull off this weekly miracle. 
You may notice a new element within the Farmers Market logo that is something I wanted to emphasize in this address. <CLICK MOUSE> 2024 is a very special year for our city.  Farmington was founded on March 8, 1824, making this year our bicentennial.  For two centuries the City of Farmington has been a welcoming and thriving community.  Starting with the grit and resourcefulness of the founding pioneers, a full 13 years before Michigan even became a state, our city has grown to become a model for other communities that aspire to live at the intersection of history and the future.  While there are many hallmarks of what we call the “Farmington Way”, the one that stood out time and time again as we planned the bicentennial celebration was the notion that our community welcomes people from all walks of life. 
I want to welcome people from all over and encourage them to experience the “Farmington Way”.  They’ll feel it while visiting our vibrant Downtown, our historic locales like the Civic Theater and Governor Warner Mansion, and our beautiful parks.  They’ll see it in our neighborhoods, restaurants, and businesses.  They’ll enjoy it at our events and celebrations, which we’re planning to expand with bicentennial elements. <CLICK MOUSE> Here’s a short video that captures the recipe for this special year. <CLICK MOUSE TO START VIDEO>
<CLICK MOUSE> And now I’d like to invite Zach Rich, Constituent Services Director for Congresswoman Haley Stevens and Secretary of the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education, to the stage for a special presentation.
Thank you, Zach, and thank you to the congresswoman for recognizing this special year for us.  We’ve also received a joint proclamation from our State Legislators and we thank them as well for their support of the bicentennial. As with anything as big as a 200-year-old birthday, it takes a team.  I want to thank Bicentennial Steering Committee Chair Sean Murphy and Councilwoman Maria Taylor for their commitment and energy to ensure our celebration is worthy of a 200-year track record.  Be sure to join us on the anniversary of the founding, March 8 for a special release of the 1824 Farmhouse Ale, a bicentennial brew custom made for celebrating 200 years of a welcoming community!
Farmington is a peerless city with solid leadership and committed citizens that constantly show their love for our community through service.  <CLICK MOUSE> We’re blessed with the strength and support of our families and friends, and I’d like to take this moment to thank my council colleagues and their families for their service to the city.  I’d like to also thank my wife, Missy, my children Sofia and Matteo, and my parents, Helene and Joe, for all they’ve done and continue to do to allow me the privilege to serve the city I love very much.
The state of our city is strong.  Farmington’s future is strong.  I look forward to seeing that future come to be, and doing what it takes to see to it that it happens.  Thank you for your attention, and may God continue to bless Farmington.
 

 

 

 

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