"A special meeting was called by the Mayor, City Manager, and the City Commission at the Royal Oak
Woman's Club on Monday evening, April 6th, 1925. Representatives of the various Clubs, the School Board,
Library Board, Banks, etc., in the City of Royal Oak were in attendance . . . "
So begin the minutes of that meeting, on five fading 8.5 x 15-inch mimeographed pages in our museum. The meeting was called "for the purpose of discussing, first by a speaker, and then a general discussion, if so desired, the subject of city planning and zoning." City Manager Beauvais commented that the topic had been raised now and then but "has always been put off."
Among those attending were "Dr. Morrison, Mrs. Wilkinson, Mrs. Kidder," Messrs. Hendry, Dondero, Baldwin, Clawson, Codling, Miller, Scott, and Holmes. Groups represented included Exchange Club, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Royal Oak Tribune, Vinsetta Improvement Association, First State Bank, and the Volunteer Fire Department.
Before Royal Oak hires or retains a City Planner, Beauvais explained, the night's speaker, "Mr. T. Glen Phillips," would provide background. Phillips touched on planning during biblical times and in the Roman Empire before he described planning in Detroit, which had "adopted a zoning plan three or four years ago." Planning would help Royal Oak avoid the mistakes made by Detroit, which has no parks or playgrounds, but slums "from which no
one can see the river." (At the time, Royal Oak had no parks, according to "Mr. Bassett.")
Proper planning, the speaker said, would prepare Royal Oak for a surge of growth, as happened when Ford built the Highland Park plant. He said that planning and zoning are "not for just beautification" but to accommodate growth in "streets, schools, libraries, water extension, sewers, transportation, utilities" which keep a community "stable" and the people "satisfied." Fire protection is critical. Currently there are areas in Royal Oak which are not easily accessible and could be "wiped out" in a fire.
Q&A conversation covered many topics: The fate of a grocery store in an area which becomes zoned residential. Minimizing auto traffic, "to provide parking on Main Street," by erecting a "superhighway" (bypass) and with a mix of "buses, streetcars, and trains." Protecting homeowners from "objectionable" structures nearby: "slaughterhouse or metal working plant," "apartment house," and from oversized new homes (Bigfoot).
The unsigned minutes do not make clear that a decision was made to establish a planning department. A tentative decision was made to establish a "Civic Association" within the Chamber of Commerce and assign that group the task of "selling to the people the right idea for the future of Royal Oak." Setting up a planning department, the minutes make clear, should not be simply "passed by a second reading" by officials.
No parks? Today we have 51. Royal Oak has grown and changed in these past 83 years, and we have city planning and zoning and "apartment houses" and condos and a few Bigfoot houses. But we are still Small Town America at its best.
The Curator and one of the founding members of the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum.