By Jessica Mathews /

The Northfield Township Board has selected a firm to design a community park.

A total of nine applicants earlier went through interviews with a committee of the Parks & Recreation Board, which recommended three to the township board to design the Northfield Community Park. It would be part of the downtown referred to as the North Village area near the unincorporated community of Whitmore Lake that was said to pose some design issues since a roadway separates the lake from the waterfront. The township is looking utilize 11.3 acres as a park and trail, divide the land and sell the remainder to a developer.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the three delivered presentations to the board, which unanimously voted to hire Ann Arbor-based Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio at a cost of approximately $18,500. All three applicants were said to have solid experience and scored very close to each other on a variety of criteria within the proposals and how well they addressed some things in the RFP, interviews and references.

Trustee Jacki Otto was on the committee and said some shined more than others with rankings. She said the three finalists selected provided a lot of information, especially around grant writing. Otto noted they asked questions regarding how relevant they were when it came to working with townships their size, trail planning, experiences with small communities and creative design. She said they also talked about how the firms deal with a difficult community because Northfield has been known to be one. Otto added they didn’t sugar coat anything for the applicants and asked about those things and how they’ll work with the public to create buy-in because they have a park and want people to be part of that creation.

Trustee Nate Muchow commended the committee for doing such a great job and felt they really couldn’t have gone wrong with any of the proposals but favored the firm that was selected and its Principal Planner Mark Robinson. Muchow noted they had the highest score for the lowest price but would expect additional costs with any of the proposals. Some of the important items for him that Robinson noted was that he was looking forward to working with a township that has never done something like this, that he was patient and that’s needed in dealing with Northfield, and the firm was the most local.

There were some concerns raised about possible cost overruns from the provided proposal. Robinson assured they’ll stay as modest as possible and work up front with the township.

The North Village property has been up for sale and envisioned to have different development and commercial components. The board also voted 6-1 to request a written offer from Livonia Builders. It was noted during the meeting that a property split still needs to happen to separate the park land, which is in the process of being put into a deed.

Treasurer Lenore Zelenock was the dissenting vote and commented that she’ll be voting no going forward on the North Village issue. She said she’s been struggling for years on whether to sell the property and personally thinks that until a park is built, it would be short-sighted to sell as it’s not needed at this time and the value would only go up.

As for the park design, it was stated that a contract will be put together to start the process and move forward but the township wants to do it without haste and get engagement going as soon as possible.

Future meetings with the board and visioning sessions with the public will be scheduled.