On January 6th, Ann Capela was hired by our Township Board as our Township manager. In the January 30, 2014 Rochester Post there was an article titled “Township manager seeks smart growth”. In the article, Ann makes several comments that clarify the direction she wants to take the Township under the leadership of our current Board. Unfortunately that direction is contrary to what the citizens have expressed in past surveys.
Here are her quotes in that article:
“Growth is coming. We must marry up the master plan with development. The pressures of development must balance with property owners’ rights. We must balance the quality of life of people who paid a lot of money to move here. The economy is coming out of a slow slump. We need to lay down the tracks for the train and see the big picture.”
Oakland Township has always viewed our Master Plan as the document that defines what our residents want our Township to be. The Plan defines the level and type of development that our Township desires. In essence, the “horse’ is the Master Plan and the “cart” is development. It now appears that our new manager and Supervisor, appear to want to put the “cart” before the “horse” by having the Master plan “marry up” with the development.
As a member of the Township Planning Commission for 26 years, we never placed the desires of developers before the desires of the residents. One only needs to drive down Rochester Road and the see the results of letting developers define their communities.
Just because someone purchased a parcel of land for a ‘lot of money’ does not entitle them to redefine the land use in the Master Plan. Individual property rights are protected, however, they are protected within the confines of our Master Plan and Ordinances. Before someone buys a parcel, they should make sure their intended use is consistent with the Zoning and the Master Plan.
In Supervisor Gonser’s recent State of the Township address, he indicated that he plans on updating the Master Plan. With his recent appointments of campaign contributors to the Planning Commission, we may see some significant changes in our next Master Plan.
Here is one page from the citizen survey used in developing our 2005 and 2011 Master Plans. It clearly indicates a strong desire by our residents to not encourage various types of development in our Township (click on page to enlarge).
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? If our Master Plan is significantly modified under our current Township Board, the character of our Township will likely change dramatically. Our citizens must be vigilant in watching what our new Board and Planning Commission will be doing in the next few months (and years). If we are not vigilant, the “tracks” that Ann Capela talks about putting down may end up being for the “train” (with significant development) our current Board, under the leadership of Gonser, envisions.
Richard Michalski – former Planning Commission member and Chair
Township Manager Capela also gives us the erroneous impression that she has some level of authority over our Master Plan. The Michigan Planning Enabling Act and our own township ordinances intentionally give no authority to either the Township Administration or Board of Trustees to meddle with the Master Plan. It is solely the responsibility of the Planning Commission to prepare, consider and approve the Master Plan. The Board may think they have some authority because the Board of Trustees passed a resolution allowing themselves the opportunity to vote their approval of the Master Plan but that resolution gives the Board no power that contravenes State Law.
We are used to this sort of overreach by Supervisor Gonser so it is not a surprise that Manager Capela, in one of her first statements to the press, would play the same tune.
I trust that the Planning Commission will understand that it is their duty, under law, to be independent of the Board and the Administration.
Michigan Planning Enabling Act
PREPARATION AND ADOPTION OF MASTER PLAN
125.3831 Master plan; preparation by planning commission; meetings with other governmental planning commissions or agency staff; powers.
Sec. 31. (1) A planning commission shall make and approve a master plan as a guide for development within the planning jurisdiction
Oakland Township Ordinances Chapter 2 Article IV:
“The members of the Planning Commission shall have the following principal duties and responsibilities, among others:
2. To prepare, consider and approve the Township Master Plan, in accordance with the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, as amended.”
I will be interested to see about this 172 acres that just listed for sale on the SE corner of Rush and Predmore… The listing boasts “Oakland Township’s Next Big Development!” which is funny because it is not zoned for that (currently VLDR)… We shall see what happens!
When I looked at the resume of our new manager, I got the impression she won’t stay here long. “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”. If development begins to look like thousands of large homes on postage stamp lots, sucking up our aquifer and flushing it to Detroit, I will oppose it. If development is out of character, AGAIN, I will join others in opposition. We have these new BOT members and supervisor largely because past leadership did NOT listen to residents.
When you say. “Just because someone purchased a parcel of land for a ‘lot of money’ does not entitle them to redefine the land use in the Master Plan.” Do you have any idea how your support of one specific developer looks to someone with a different perspective? That’s exactly how many of us have felt for a very long time Richard, just from another viewpoint. I’m holding back to try and be respectful but that rubs me the wrong way given you stance on some developments. When I bought my land in 1984 and subdivided it in 1990, I followed the rules, not changed them. I also knowingly bought the last split-able lot in my quarter section. So I built last. I did that on purpose so I would know what my immediate surroundings would look like for as long as I live here. If someone with a ton of cash or specific last name buys the 8 acres behind me and they are allowed to re-zone, my planning goes out the window.
Thanks for your honest and thoughtful response. I knew when I made the statement in the above posting, someone knowledgable, like yourself, might draw the conclusion that my position on the Blossom Ridge development was contrary to my statement.
My support for the Blossom Ridge development was based on two facts. First, during the 35 years living here, I saw too many elderly residents move out of our Township since we did not allow for appropriate housing for them. Second, while I was on the Planning Commission, we discovered that our Township was vulnerable for exclusionary practices related to senior and disabled housing.
Long before Moceri came forward with his proposal for Blossom Ridge, we were looking at what we needed to do to protect the TOWNSHIP from lawsuits due to our Master Plan and Zoning. We were not motivated by land owners or developers. We were motivated by our concern for what might happen if the Township was found guilty for exclusionary actions. That is why we indicated in the Master Plan that the land where the proposed Blossom Ridge development was proposed COULD be an acceptable use for that land based on infrastructure requirements.
The County Zoning Commission warned our Township last March that rejecting the development could result in Federal Housing violations. That is precisely where we are at today. The investigation is now at the Department of Justice, HUD has concluded their investigation. The outcome of the DOJ proceedings will determine if the voice of those that voted in last summer’s referendum, or the previous Board and Planning Commission were correct. Either way, the citizens of Oakland Township will now suffer.