After violent incidents, Farmington Hills looks at biz licensing

An uptick in violence at some Farmington Hills businesses has city council members looking at a business license process that would make it easier for police to temporarily shut them down.

Police Chief Jeff King told city council members Monday that the department’s entire afternoon shift, plus mutual aid officers from other cities, responded to one fight this year at Sport ‘N’ Fun on Grand River near Orchard Lake Road. Over a four-month period, police responded to 23 incidents at the outdoor amusement center, including other large-scale fights and an assault on a 12-year-old girl.

After meetings with police, King said, the facility owner volunteered to set limits on access, restrict large groups, and hire uniformed security guards, and “we saw significant decrease in that activity.”

Hookah lounge adds security

Hookah lounges are also on the radar, after a stabbing, attempted murder, and an October shooting at a gas station near a lounge on Northwestern Highway. King said that lounge owner now has armed security and installed a metal detector.

“My focus is on the behavior, not the business itself,” he said, adding the license would “bolster the measures these businesses have taken and reduce the strain on our resources and improve the safety of their location.”

City attorney Steve Joppich said the council can adopt ordinances “to protect the public heath, safety, and welfare”. The license under consideration would be limited to hookah lounges, family fun centers, arcades, go kart, and “putt putt” establishments.

Council members generally supported the measure. Valerie Knol said Farmington Hills residents had complained to her about fights at the amusement center, and Mayor Vicki Barnett expressed concerns about safety in some areas of the city.

“We are known as a safe city, I want to continue to be known as a safe city,” she said.

Involve business owners

Council member Samantha Steckloff stressed that the Sport ‘N’ Fun business owner has done all they can to resolve issues. She asked that business owners be included in drafting the license. Council members Jackie Boleware and Mary Newlin both favored a cautious approach that does not put up barriers to businesses moving into the community.

Joppich said that city officials can control fees to make the license  inexpensive and set up a hearing process that gives owners an opportunity to explain and correct problems.

“The idea would be not to target them, but to enable them to operate in a responsible manner,” he said.

Council members took no action. A draft ordinance will appear on a future agenda.

Reported by