The Oakland Township Board did not approve the Draft Zoning Ordinance at their September 26, 2017 meeting.
The current Zoning Ordinance was originally approved in 1976. It has been modified many times through the years. That Ordinance has played a key role in defining the character of Oakland Township. The Draft Ordinance was intended to include revisions in State Law as well as providing an opportunity for citizen input.
During the last three Township Board meetings (Aug 22, Sept 12 and Sept 26, 2017), the Board heard input from citizens regarding the Draft Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance 16) that the Planning commission had recently approved. The Planning Commissions under three Township Administrations had been working on the document for over 6 year. There has already been significant citizen input in the document. This ordinance requires the Township Board’s approval before it is official. The Draft Ordinance was on the agenda for the August 22 and September 26th Board meetings.
The ‘first reading’ of the Ordinance occurred on August 22nd. There was very little input from citizens. At the September 12th Board meeting, as well as during the ‘second reading’ on September 26, there was quite a bit of input from citizens.
As a result of the input from citizens, the Board did not approve the Draft Ordinance as it is. They will probably be discussing the ‘next steps’ at the October 10th meeting. Hopefully, the Board will provide their input to the Planning Commission regarding the issues raised by the citizens.
Here is a summary of the concerns raised by the citizens at the meetings. Most of these issues had been discussed at previous Planning Commission meetings and at the public workshops that the Board held with the Planning Commission. Some of these are not true, but they were raised by the citizens as issues and should be addressed at subsequent meetings.
Definitions – Section 16-200 to 227
- ‘Grandfathered use’ (no definition)
- ‘Rubbish’ (too vague)
- ‘Nuisance’ (no definition in ‘Definition’ section, but too vague as defined in Section 16-306F)
- ‘Goods sold in home’ (no definition)
Home Occupation – Section 16-323
- Believed publishing home business phone number on Facebook, or phone book, was not allowed (this is not true)
- Prevents publishing address of home business on Facebook or phone book
- Wording related to preventing people picking up product at their home
Bed and Breakfast – Section 16-505
- Do not see need to establish minimum room size of 120 square feet for sleeping area of Bed and Breakfast facility
Enforcement of Ordinance – Section 16-110 & 16-111
- Enforced on complaint basis only– not uniformly enforced
- Penalty is misdemeanor not civil infraction
- Others that ‘participate, assist or maintain violation’ are also liable
- Concern over individual having been jailed for violation in past
- Concern over process to document the existing ‘grandfathered’ or non-conforming situations
Animals – Sections 16-202A & 16-306
- 2 acre limits for small animals (chickens and rabbits) is too restrictive – want .5 acre
- 150 pound limit for domestic animals is too restrictive for some large dogs
Test Plan – Section 16-343
- Test plan definition allows for counting non-buildable land in establishing allowed density count
Cell tower – Section 16-416
- Wording is too restrictive and prevents owners from having cell towers on their property
Home size – Section 16-312
- Minimum home size of 1200 square feet is too restrictive – should be able to build smaller homes
Assisted Living facility for elderly – Section 16-408
- 10 acre requirement is too restrictive – should be less
Change in parcel size on gravel road – Section 16-403
- Questioned whether Ordinance was made less restrictive by allowing 2.3 acre lots with 200 ft. road frontage vs. what was believed to be previous 5 acre on 350 ft. road frontage
In addition to the specific issues raised by citizens, several individuals expressed concerns that the proposed Ordinance was an infringement of their property rights. Here are some of the statements made by these individuals:
- The Document is too large – it should be no more than 50 pages
- Large acreage parcels should not have restrictions like subdivisions
- Let the subdivision owner’s control their property through their deed restrictions
- “As long as we have wonderful neighbors” no need for ordinances
- Ordinance has contributed to ‘overdevelopment’ of Township
In response to those concerns, having been on the Planning Commission of Oakland Township for over 26 years, I made the following points at the September 26th meeting:
- The current Ordinance was approved in 1976 and updated many times
- It has been modified through the years based on citizen input and State Laws
- The Draft Ordinance is less restrictive in many areas than the current Ordinance
- Contrary to comment made by our former supervisor, the effectiveness of an ordinance is not measured by number of pages, but by its impact on the community.
- People like Oakland Township because of “what we are”.
- We “are what we are” because of 40 years of good ordinances
- The Draft Ordinance has been under development for well over 5 years
- Input has been received from many citizens over that time
- The Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) participated in review of changes and provided input
- The ZBA is knowledgeable of areas where there have been citizen issues – they “feel the hot breath of citizens” through the appeals process
- The Planning Commission has included the ZBA’s input in the Draft Ordinance
- Many rural areas in the state have very limited zoning ordinances resulting in issues in their communities
- Without ordinances there is no method to correct problem areas
- Some residents suggested subdivision should not rely on zoning ordinances, but should rely on their deed restriction to control problems
- Deed Restriction enforcement requires sub owners to hire costly attorneys
- Township ordinances provide protection without added burden
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? The purpose of the ‘first and second reading’ is to provide citizens one last chance to provide input on the Ordinance. The Planning Commission and Township Board should consider the concerns raised by the citizens and make changes they feel are appropriate. However, a wholesale re-review of the Draft Ordinance in not warranted given the years of input that many other citizens have already provided the Planning Commission on the Draft Ordinance. Their input should not be ‘discounted’ as a result of those who just recently got involved.
The Current Ordinance has served us well. It needs to be ‘tweaked’ not destroyed.
Richard Michalski (former Oakland Township Planning Commissioner for over 26 years)
If you want to review the Draft ordinance click on the following link:
Click to access Final%20Draft%20CORRECTED%208-31-17.pdf