By David Gordon

On September 16, 2015, a new Township Planner inroduced herself to Northfield Township.  Beckett and Raedar's Leah DuMouchel presented her analysis of the 1996 and 2010 Township community surveys.  These were her conclusions:

  • The previous surveys were constructed well enough to offer actionable data.
  • Resident priorities have been broadly determined.
  • The top three priorities are natural features, downtown development, and recreation.
  • Residential development does not appear to be a strong enough priority to justify amending the master plan at this time.
  • Specific questions remain for which community input would be valuable.
  • Community engagement tools other than a survey may be more appropriate to gather that particular data.

She said attitudes toward preservation and development changed little during the fifteen years that separated the two surveys.  And that no dramatic population shifts have occurred since 2010.  She recommended we stop the Cobalt survey, which was stalled in discussions between the Board and the Planning Commission.

Immediately following her presentation, she was assailed by members of the Planning Commission (as seen in the video).  In subsequent meetings, her recommendations were repeatedly dismissed as “merely your opinion”.

DuMouchel's character was publicly besmirched by Township Manager Fink at the Dec. 8 Board meeting. (Link to video: End of meeting where “Chick asked Fink about items billed)  Link to video:  Fink charging Planner DuMouchel with “unethical” behavior because she billed the township for talking to residents.   No Board member challenged Fink’s assertion or defended DuMouchel, who was not at the meeting to defend herself.

We reached out to former township planner Doug Lewan, who said “billing for citizen interaction is a standard industry practice.  I did it for all the years we served your community.”

When informed of Lewan’s comment, no member of the Board, which included current members Janet Chick, Jacki Otto and Wayne Dockett, came to DuMouchel's defense or chastised Fink for his unprofessional behavior.   

Dumouchel quit later that month.  It was the second time in six months that our planners had quit the Township.  Consultants are seldom replaced or fired, and rarely quit.  A common industry maxim is "fire your worst client," and apparently that was us....twice.

The current Board is now considering whether to give Cobalt another $7,000 to complete the survey.  They have already paid Cobalt $9,000.





 DuMouchel's Analysis of the 1996 and 2010 Surveys (hi definition)

  • If the youtube window doesn't work, click here.  The slideshow pdf can be viewed or downloaded here.


More reading, relevant reports: