BOOMTOWNS: Census data shows growth in pockets around Oakland County

Posted on March 29, 2011

Sitting at her reception desk at Liberty Chevrolet located in the large Lyon Towne Center shopping complex, Cindy Lewis pointed out nearby businesses — Bella Scappare salon and day spa, TSC Tractor Supply, and the new Liberty Hyundai dealership — that have sprung up in just the past two years.

“It is amazing the growth here,” said Lewis, who has lived in Lyon Township 18 years.

Up the road at the Lyon Township hall, staff call out the names of subdivisions that sprouted in the past decade, including Woodwind, Carriage Club, Saddle Creek and the Heights of Elkow Farms — developments that produced 1,250 new single-family homes in the 32-square-mile township.

“When the weather breaks, we have eight more basements to dig on presold homes,” said Paul Elkow, a longtime resident and owner of Paul Elkow Building Co.

Around Oakland County, several communities are celebrating the happy news that their town showed growth, as reported in the newly released U.S. Census data.

Officials with the city of Rochester couldn’t be happier with the news that their city grew by about 2,300.

“That’s a lot (more) people in a city that’s built-out,” said Katherine Graham, market research analyst with Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Services.

“We’re very pleased,” said Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson, who was born and raised in the city.

“It shows we continue to be a quality-of-life leader and a destination for people who want to reside in a community that’s strong and has a real sense of place.”

Jaymes Vettraino, Rochester city manager, said people are drawn to the city.

“The stability here, during unstable times, continues to be attractive to residents and businesses,” he said.

Vettraino also credits strong historic neighborhoods, newer single-family homes on the city’s east side, new condos near downtown along with park, trail and river assets, a vibrant downtown district, high-quality education opportunities, and a growing commercial base.

Recently, the city was also included on CNN/Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” list.

“We’re looking forward to see the detailed census data to see if we had strong growth among 30- to 40-year-olds,” Vettraino said.

“By adding those critical residents, we will lead the way for growth and success in the next 10 years.”

School buildings

at capacity

Lyon Township had the highest percentage of growth in the county — 31.6 percent — going from 11,041 people to 14,545.

Because the school buildings were at near-capacity from the boom, the South Lyon Community School District had to build a second high school in 2007, said Assistant Superintendent James Graham.

The district also added a new elementary school in 2004.

Sam Ayoub, who has owned Leo’s Coney Island in Lyon Township since 2001, said, “When I came here, there was nothing here. Now it’s unbelievable. People (move) here because it’s a quiet and safe community.”

Lindsay Cortis and her husband, Chris Cortis, just relocated their salon and day spa from downtown South Lyon to Lyon Township across from the Towne Center.

“It’s been amazing here,” Lindsay said.

“Everyone comes to the Walmart across the street and we are more accessible to all the traffic. We can now pull (customers) from Milford and Novi.

“Location is a huge thing.”

A new sewer plant built in the early 2000s, the township’s proximity to Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor, low taxes and large tracts of land “all sparked development,” said Lannie Young, township supervisor.

Communities that saw the most new people move in include Novi, which grew by 7,838 — followed by Commerce with 5,373 and Oxford area with 4,519.

Novi City Manager Clay Pearson was pleased his city grew by 16.5 percent — from 47,386 to 55,224.

Pearson said the growth in his city occurred north of I-96.

“The growth is well-dispersed, predominantly single-family” Pearson said.

He did note that Fox Run, a retirement community that opened on 13 Mile Road in 2003, brought more than 1,000 people into the area.

“We’re happy to be one of the drivers for the area in terms of the economy and activity,” Pearson said.

“We want to see the whole area take the right direction soon.”

Kathleen Jackson, Commerce Township planner, said the population there increased in the early part of the decade, before the housing bust, but that they are seeing building permits on the upswing again.

Oxford Township grew from 16,007 to 20,526 over the decade, up 28.2 percent.

The 1,372-acre Waterstone development is one area of new homes, located north of Oxford Village, on the west side of Lapeer Road. The development features dozens of lots, a 27-hole golf course and 15 lakes.

Oakland Township, situated north of Rochester, increased by 28.4 percent, going from 13,071 to 16,779 residents.

Township Supervisor Joan Fogler called the growth in the upscale bedroom community “wonderful.”

“It’s because the area out here is rural and there is still a lot of open country,” she said.

She said housing growth occurred on Buell Road, and at Adams and Silverbell roads.

Growth dissected

Some people point to low taxes as a reason for a community expansion, but Novi’s Pearson said he believes “people make their choice based on schools, proximity to jobs and quality of life.”

Residents quizzed in the developing communities offered many reasons — from nearby expressways to great parks and safe surroundings.

“Knowing what I know about population growth,” said Oakland County’s Graham, “development occurs where vacant land is. For example, years ago, there was nothing in Lyon Township, then the Ford Wixom plant went in and a lot of new retail followed. Then the people came.”

Oakland and Oxford townships had land to develop, she said.

“Growth occurred in these areas with new houses,” she said.

Oxford has many gravel pits in the area.

“The pits created lakes, which provided prime sites for development” since lakefront lots are often more desirable, Graham said.

“About 80 percent of what was planned did occur there,” she said.

What brings people to a state or region is jobs, weather and family, said Graham.

“Once you are there, what brings you to a community has more to do with personal preference and emotions. If you have kids, then schools are a priority, yes. But in my opinion, people will live in the best place they can afford.”

By Carol Hopkins, The Oakland Press