At the August 31, 2015 Special Board of Trustees meeting that Supervisor Gonser scheduled to appoint two new Planning Commission members, he demonstrated his lack of understanding of an important element of our Ordinance. He accused the previous Planning Commission of creating an ordinance that was established to benefit developers. Nothing was farther from the truth. His ignorance demonstrates the importance of filling the two open Planning Commission seats with people that can add some historical knowledge to the Planning Commission.
In the mid-1980’s, the Township performed a study to determine the impact of what would occur if all of the land in the Township was developed to the full extent allowed under the then existing zoning. It was determined that since the Township was (and continues to be) serviced by many gravel roads, safety concerns would exist if the properties on gravel roads were allowed to be fully developed. There were concerns over Fire Truck, Emergency vehicle and Police vehicle access over poor gravel road conditions, in all seasons, due to the future heavy traffic.
With that understanding, the Township Board and the Planning Commission developed what is presently called the “Ultimate Paved Road Density Ordinance”. This Ordinance decreased the zoning density of over 300 parcels of land that were only accessible on gravel roads. However, in order to prevent the property owners from legally challenging the Township of a ‘taking’, the Ordinance allows the parcels to revert back to the original zoning classification if the access roads to the parcel(s) are paved by the developer of the property.
This ordinance has been used by a number of developers over the years. One of the more visible examples is the stretch of Silverbell east of Adams to almost Gallagher Road. The cost for the paving was incurred by the developer, and the result is the subdivision that exists there under the original zoning.
At the August 31, 2015 meeting, the Supervisor commented that he saw this ordinance as a poor example of Planning in the Township and a reason for why he wanted to change the membership of the Planning Commission. In his statement he said:
” That (the Ultimate Paved Road Density Ordinance) came out of your last Planning Commission, the previous Planning Commission. That permitted developers to increase the density if they paved the road.
Now, does that satisfy Oakland Township’s desire to stay rural?
I think not!”
The author of this post, former Planning Commissioner Chairman James Carter, and another citizen who played a significant role in establishing the Ordinance Don Westphal, pointed out to the Supervisor that the Planning Commission and Board action in the mid-1980s was an excellent example of good planning. The reasons are:
- It protects the safety of the community by insuring we had roads that could be used by emergency vehicles in all seasons.
- It protects the Township from being accused of ‘taking’ property rights away from property owners, since they could revert to the original zoning if they met the criteria defined in the Ordinance.
- It acts as a method to decrease development in the Township.
- It reduces the amount of money required to maintain the gravel roads that could not sustain the higher traffic from higher density developments.
When confronted with these arguments, Gonser stated:
” I studied that quite well, so I understand completely how it happened. The bottom line is it gets developed, and it gets developed to a higher density. So the proof is ‘in the puddin!’ “
Here are video excerpts from the meeting – (please note Gonser’s attempt to limit James Carter’s comments and the citizen’s reactions):
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? The Supervisor’s ignorance over the reasons for the Ordinance reinforced the need to have knowledgable people on the Planning Commission. His belief that the Ordinance is bad just because “it (the land) got developed” is contrary to his statement that “private property rights are paramount”. You cannot have it both ways!
At the beginning of each Planning Commission meeting, an opening statement is read where the duties of the Planning Commission are explained. It states the the Planning Commission is charged with ensuring all plans must:
- meet the existing Zoning and other Ordinances of the Township
- meet Michigan State Law & Constitution
- meet Federal Law
- protect the property right of the owners of the property.
The Supervisor apparently does not support protecting the property rights of developers who own land. Apparently he sees a difference between “developers” who own land and “private property owners”. The law does not differentiate between the two.
The Township must protect against having individuals that have similar opinions appointed to our Planning Commission. Our Township will be plagued with high legal expenses defending poor decisions by the Planning Commission and the Board. If the Township loses a “taking” lawsuit, the Township is subject to significant monetary damages which are ultimately paid by taxpayers.
We need experienced individuals on the Planning Commission to offset the lack of understanding of good planning by our Supervisor.
Here are some related links that were previously posted on this website: