Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of understanding of Planning Ordinance

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.

Richard Michalski

Here are some related links that were previously posted on this website:

Did Supervisor Gonser try to mislead the citizens, or was he ignorant of the facts?

Zoning? – Gonser Doesn’t Understand our Master Plan Either.

Supervisor Gonser attempts to influence Planning Commission’s Master Plan

Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of knowledge of Oakland Township Zoning

Supervisor Gonser’s REAL views on trails, pathways, bike paths and environmental protection


7 thoughts on “Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of understanding of Planning Ordinance

  1. Dennis Souter

    Anybody know why these parcels on gravel roads were zoned at a higher density in the first place? Just curious.

    1. richardjmichalski Post author

      If you watch the video of the Board meeting for August 31 on the Township website, at the 86 minute mark, Don Westphal give a fairly good description of how the various zoning districts were determined in the 70’s. There were a number of ‘overlays’ developed for the entire Township. Each one of them pertained to a certain characteristic for the property. When all of the various maps were ‘overlayed’, the less intense usages such as VLRD were designated for the areas that could not sustain a more intense development. If the characteristics of the land was suitable for a more intense development, such as MRD, that was how it was established. Their may have been other factors involved, but the major driver was the character of the land itself.

      The zoning did not get refined to comprehend the safety issues related to gravel roads until the changes made in the 80’s, when the Township began to experience issues on gravel roads as development progressed into Oakland Township.

      1. Marc Edwards

        Having served on the Township Board and Planning Commission for 22 years the Ultimate Paved Road Density Ordinance was the most innovative and legally enforceable Ordinance to be ever be developed by any Township in Michigan!

        As Mr. Michalski and Mr. Carter pointed out, by doing an a down-zoning (less density) without a legal reasons, would have resulted in a “taking” and multiple lawsuits by developers.

        It is just one example by our great Supervisor for 18 years, Joan Buser, of how she protected our Township’s rural nature. Other examples includes the first Wet Land Ordinance in Michigan, controlling development by limiting sewers, and implementing tree and open space requirements.

        This is just another example of why Gonser and Thalmann are so unsuited for office. They can neither comprehend, or understand, complex planning concepts that (as Trustee Frank F. stated) respect the Rule of Law, the Right of the Residents, and the Rights of the Applicant.

        Their Neolithic thinking is the reason why the Township is facing so many lawsuits at this time. They continue to embarrass the Township and themselves and why Gonser needs to be censored and the rest of the Board take control until the next election!

        Residents need to say “enough” to Gonser! Your ongoing ignorance and obtuse comments have made the Township the laughing stock of Michigan Governments!

      2. Dennis Souter

        Even though I moved here 25 years ago, I guess I’m still a newbie in some respects. I will watch the video. Thanks for the history lesson! 🙂

  2. Marty Rosalik

    I completely agree with Mr. Edwards on the innovation and enforceability of the Ultimate Paved Road Density ordinance, I also see how it has indirectly caused stresses for many township residents who are/were unaware of how it works.

    The current Buell Road near Hadden proposal is just one of these. If/when the developer performs road paving and other prescribed improvements, he will have a higher density available to him. There won’t be much anyone can do to stop it.

    I’m not saying that is bad, just that it is and more folks need to know how that works.

    I also agree that we don’t have enough people willing to put up with all the flack ( from a loud minority ) at a “typical” township meeting in order to do the right things.

    If some of that vitriol toned down a bit, we might attract some better candidates. Not just the ones with extremely thick emotional armor.

  3. Pingback: Ultimate Paved Road Density Ordinance Explained | Oakland Township Sentinel, LLC

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