Tag Archives: Oakland Township Board

Township Board hears input from citizens on Draft Zoning Ordinance 16

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 OrdinanceSection 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

AnimalsSections 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 PlanSection 16-343

  • Test plan definition allows for counting non-buildable land in establishing allowed density count

Cell towerSection 16-416

  • Wording is too restrictive and prevents owners from having cell towers on their property

Home sizeSection 16-312

  • Minimum home size of 1200 square feet is too restrictive – should be able to build smaller homes

Assisted Living facility for elderlySection 16-408

  • 10 acre requirement is too restrictive – should be less

Change in parcel size on gravel roadSection 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:

http://www.oaklandtownship.org/boards_and_commissions/planning_commission/docs/Final%20Draft%20CORRECTED%208-31-17.pdf

 

Controversial items on September 13th Township Board meeting

First of all we hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable summer.  There have not been many posts on the website this summer, other than the results of the primary elections in August.  However, Township business is picking up.

There are a number of controversial items on Tuesday’s (September 13) Township Board meeting.  The topics that will probably receive the most discussion at the meeting include:

  • A developer’s request to extend an expiring sewer tap pay back program
  • A Pulte request to approve a Preliminary Site Condominium request for 57 units on the northeast corner of Adams and Gunn Road (across from Delta Kelly School)
  • 2016 Millage levy setting
  • Hunting in Oakland Township

As always, resident input on topics may influence the decisions the Board makes.  

If you have opinions on these matters, please either attend the meeting, or send an email to the Township Board with your thoughts on these topics.

Here is a copy of the agenda for the meeting:  

September 13, 2016 BOT agenda

You can go to the Township’s official website http://www.oaklandtownship.org to read additional documentation on these agenda items:

  • Click on ‘Township Documents’ at bottom of page
  • Click on ‘Misc Documents’ on left side of page under Public Documents
  • Click on ‘BOT Packet Sept 13, 2016 part 1‘ & ‘2’ – scroll down to the topics of interest

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  These agenda items not only will have a financial impact on all of us and the Township, they will also have a long term impact on the character of our community.

The balance between the wishes of current residents of Oakland Township and property owners who want to develop their land is maintained by the State and Local laws and ordinances.  The developers often want to ‘push the envelope‘ or ‘work the boundaries’ of the ordinances to their advantage.  Having a well informed community support their elected leaders ensure the ordinances to the full intent of the law is essential in protecting our community.  Your participation will help them do that.

Richard Michalski

Civility will return to Oakland Township! Our reputation restored!

Congratulations! Our collective efforts have been successful!

Voting_icon

Here are the names of the unofficial winners of the Oakland Township Board positions for 2016-2020 – pending the results of the November election:

Supervisor – Mike Bailey

Treasurer – Jeanne Langlois

Clerk – Karen Reilly

Trustee – Robin Buxar

Trustee – Frank Ferriolo

Trustee – John Giannangeli

Trustee – Lana Mangiapane  (only member of Terry Gonser’s ‘ticket’)

Here are the names of the unofficial winners of the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission positions for 2016-2020 – pending the results of the November election:

Emily Barkham

Craig Blust

Dan Bukowski

Colin Choi

Cathy Rooney

Daniel Simon

Hank Van Agen

In addition, both the Parks renewal millage and the OPC transportation millage were approved.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?

With these public servants:

  • Civil, ethical and professional behavior will be restored at both the Board and Parks Commission level.
  • Turmoil regarding the form of governance in Oakland Township will be eliminated.
  • The certainty of the position of Township Manager will enable us to have the most qualified professional municipal manager run the day to day operations in the Township.
  • Conflicts between the Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission will be eliminated.
  • The great reputation of our Township will be restored.

Will there be difficult and contentious issues our community will have to deal with?  Absolutely!  Will there be differences of opinion on how to resolve the issues?  Absolutely!

However, we have seen how the returning Board members have developed and worked together as a team over the past few years.  Our future looks bright!

Thanks to all the great candidates that chose to run for office!  Thanks to the retiring Parks and Recreation Commission members for ‘vetting’ the new Commission’s candidates, so their legacy will continue!  Thanks to the countless others that helped get the new officials elected! Thanks to all those who have been following this website!  Thanks to all of those who contributed to the ‘Oakland Township Watchers Action Committee’ for helping to make the election results a success!

BUT, most of all, thanks to all those who voted!

YOUR VOTE COUNTED!

Richard Michalski & Jim Foulkrod

 

 

 

MUST WATCH BEFORE YOU VOTE: Gonser’s supporter’s ‘dirty politics’ caught on surveillance video

On August 1, 2016, a day before the election, a supporter of Terry Gonser was caught on surveillance video removing a flier from an Oakland Township owner’s door (although impossible to tell, it appears to have been an Andy Zale flier that is Red White and Blue) and then peered into the house for an eerily long period of time, scaring the children.  She left a copy of Supervisor Gonser’s campaign flier on the door.  

This is yet another example of the lack of integrity in Supervisor Gonser and his campaign.  Please watch the following video.  It should convince you not to vote for Terry Gonser.  It was enough to convince the owner.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  

THE VIDEO SPEAKS FOR ITSELF!

CAN ANYONE IDENTIFY THIS WOMAN?

Richard Michalski

 

Supervisor Gonser violated Charter Township Act in 2014!

A person's actions tell you everthing you need to know

At the June 14 , 2016 Board meeting, the Township attorney was asked to review the historical documents, and determine if Supervisor Gonser had authority to sign an easement agreement without Board knowledge or approval. At the June 28, 2016 Board meeting, the attorney concluded, even though there were past administrative failures that resulted in the easement not being officially approved and recorded back in 2004, Supervisor Gonser should have brought the issue to the Board prior to him signing it on September 3, 2014.  His signature violated the Charter Township Act.

  • Supervisor Gonser, attempted to prevent the attorney’s conclusions from being made public.
  • Supervisor Gonser tried to blame the attorney by saying there were undocumented conversations on this matter and that he “was not advised not to bring it to the Board”. (There was no evidence that the attorney was ever aware of the issue prior to the June 14, 2016 meeting.)
  • Supervisor Gonser indicated there had been considerable discussion prior to signing the agreement, even though he could not recall anything about this issue at the June 14th Board meeting.
  • Supervisor Gonser tried to blame the Planning Commission for the administrative issue that resulted in the failure to have the deed recorded back in 2004, even though it was not the Planning Commissions responsibility.
  • Supervisor Gonser attempted to defend his failure to bring it to the Board for review and agreement, even though his actions violated the Charter Township Act, by saying:

    “What would have been the difference!  . . . . .It was a done deal!”

So what happens now?  Since there never was an official Board motion (in 2004 or 2014) to approve the easement agreement, and the Board wants to understand the Township’s legal responsibility for this easement, the issue will come back to the Board for final resolution.

Here is a video of the meeting proceedings.  It does provide a very clear picture of Supervisor Gonser’s thought process and character.

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Since there were previous commitments made regarding the easement but they had not been officially recorded, the Township administrative procedures need to be reviewed to ensure this type of failure does not occur again.

However, the Supervisor’s:

  • lack of understanding that the issue should have been brought to the Board,
  • his rationalization for violating the Charter Township Act because “What would have been the difference?”,
  • his apparent selective memory on this issue by his conflicting comments made at the June 14th and 28th meetings,
  • his lack of understanding of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission,
  • his accusing two residents of ‘parsing’ his words,
  • and his attempts to place blame on others,

should raise concerns by our citizens.  Is this the type of leader we want as Supervisor for the next four years?  He has previously indicated he wants to take over all administrative responsibilities for the Township and eliminate our full time professional Township manager position. Do you really think we can trust him?

Personally, I think he would have been better off if he had simply admitted that he “screwed up” and should have brought it to the Board.   There is no harm in admitting to a mistake – trying to place blame on others for a personal failure is another matter.  ‘Nixonian’ is the best term I can come up with to describe his behavior.

Richard Michalski

 

Statistics on growth of “Board/Manager” form of community governance

Supervisor Terry Gonser is proposing going back to the form of Township governance our community had prior to 1998, where his position would be a full time position.  There are several 2016 Oakland Township Board candidates that support Terry Gonser’s re-election candidacy, and presumably support his desire to make this change. 

Statistics published by the International City/Council Management Association (ICMA) indicate that many communities are moving toward the form of governance Oakland Township currently has, not away from it.  Their data indicates the size of a community influences the form of governance the communities choose.

After several attempts, we have not been successful in obtaining written statements from Supervisor Gonser (although his past actions make his position clear) , or several other Board candidates, regarding their position on this issue.  The citizens of Oakland Township deserve to understand each candidate’s position before they cast their ballots. Unfortunately the following have been reluctant to provide their positions.

We have not received responses from:

  • Terry Gonser – Supervisor Candidate
  • Judy Workings – Clerk Candidate
  • Jayson Corey – Trustee Candidate
  • Lana Mangiapane – Trustee Candidate
  • Robert Ricketts – Trustee Candidate who has withdrawn from race

The statements from the other candidates can be read by clicking:

SEE 2016 CANDIDATE OPINIONS

Here is more information on ICMA and the statistics they provided:

The ICMA is an organization that:

“identifies leading practices to address the needs of local governments and professionals serving communities globally. We provide services, research, publications, data and information, peer and results-oriented assistance, and training and professional development to thousands of city, town, and county leaders and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA’s members affect millions of people living in thousands of communities, ranging in size from small towns to large metropolitan areas.”

Here is a quote from their website regarding the form of governance in communities (note: the ‘board-manager’ form of governance for a Township is similar to the ‘council-manager’ form for a village or city):

“Since it was first created a century ago, the council-manager form of government has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States. While many new municipalities have been incorporated with managers from their beginnings, many cities and counties across the country have made a deliberate change from strong-mayor to council-manager. Appointing a non-partisan professional manager with the authority to carry out the policies set by the elected body has advantages for many communities, and several have recently made the switch.”

The ICMA has provided data on how the preferred form of governance changes as a community increases in size.  Here is a graph of that data:

(click on image to enlarge it)

Form of governance vs. Community size

As you can see, when a community is small in size, it tends to have a “Mayor-Council’ or “Supervisor-Board” form of governance.  As it grows, and the complexity of managing the community increases,  it tends to move toward a “Council-Manager” or “Board-Manager” form of governance, where a professionally trained manager handles the administrative issues of the community at the direction of the Board.  Once a community gets above 250,000 residents, the “Mayor-Council” form of governance comes back into favor.

Oakland Township’s 2010 population was almost 17,000.  With that population size, 53% of the 1,847 communities surveyed have a “Board-Manager” form of governance, similar to what Oakland Township currently possesses.  The reasons for the increase in popularity of this form of governance are expressed by many of the the Oakland Township Board candidates that support retaining our current form of governance, SEE 2016 CANDIDATE OPINIONS, as well as the Kalamazoo Township Board that is moving to this form of governance, SEE KALAMAZOO BOARD DECISION.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  As previously stated, there are several 2016 candidates that support Supervisor Gonser.  If they get elected, they may be successful in making his position a full time position. There are a few candidates (identified above) that have not provided their position on this critical issue.  Please consider the information that is available when you vote.

Richard Michalski

Legal review underway to determine if Supervisor Gonser had authority to commit Township to significant financial liability without Board knowledge or approval

At the June 14, 2016 Oakland Township Board meeting, Treasurer Langlois disclosed that on September 3, 2014, Supervisor Gonser signed a safety path easement agreement with a property owner to transfer “all responsibility and liability for the safety path and boardwalk to the Township and its residents”.  This agreement was done without any knowledge, or agreement, from the Township Board.  

The agreement could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost to the Township in repair and/or replacement of that badly deteriorated path.  The property involved is on the Southwest corner of Adams and Silverbell Roads.   The parcel is currently owned by a Moceri entity. It was purchased from the church on that corner approximately 90 days after the easement was signed. The easement document that the Supervisor signed indicates that it was prepared by an employee of a Moceri entity.  (The ownership information was corrected after the initial post.   The change in ownership was incorrectly stated as just the opposite of what is now correctly stated.)

Treasurer Langlois stated there is no evidence of a Board review, or a Legal review of this matter (the Township attorney did not appear to have any knowledge of the agreement).  She also stated:

“I do not believe Supervisor Gonser had, or has, the authority to accept easements on behalf of the Township.  Only the Board of Trustees has that authority. The document appears to show an overreach on the part of the Supervisor, and a complete improper action.”

Supervisor Gonser sat silent for almost 3 minutes while others spoke before he stated:

“Unfortunately I don’t remember why I signed it.  I can only state that it certainly did not come in a vacuum.  Someone had to present it to me and indicated it was appropriate to sign, but I don’t remember the specifics of it.” 

He made no attempt at explaining why he did not bring it to the Board for approval, or even for information.

Trustee Ferriolo stated:

“No matter what was involved in the history and rationale for doing it, it should have been brought to the Board.”

The Township attorney has agreed to perform an investigation on this issue and will report out at the next meeting scheduled for June 28, 2016.

 

Here is a video of the June 14th discussion:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  We certainly must wait for the results of the Legal investigation to be complete before we draw any final conclusions, but Supervisor Gonser’s signature, and lack of willingness to inform the entire Board of his actions, is consistent with previous behavior.

This website has reported that Supervisor Gonser has repeatedly attempted to change the governance structure of Oakland Township to one where he would become a full time “Strong Supervisor”. He has taken several unilateral actions without Board approval.  The Board has repeatedly responded by reaffirming Ordinance 97, which limits the Supervisor’s responsibilities, and maintains a professional Township manager who reports to the entire Board.

Here are some key points:

  • This easement agreement will certainly result in significant added costs to our Township.
  • It appears to have been made unilaterally without Board knowledge or agreement.
  • Under normal conditions, Gonser’s action could have resulted in a recall campaign being held.
  • Gonser is currently a candidate for election on August 2nd.
  • The Absentee ballots are going out on June 29th.
  • It is essential that the Legal review be completed by the June 28th Board meeting,
  • It is absolutely essential that we get adequate press coverage immediately after the June 28th meeting, so people can make an informed decision prior to sending in their absentee ballot.

My recommendation is that the Board be prepared to issue a press release on June 29th to the Oakland Press and the Rochester Post informing them of the outcome of the investigation.  If there are acceptable reasons for Gonser’s signature, there may be no need for the press release.  However, the press release may still be necessary since Gonser should have brought it to the Board for information.

The citizens need to have a clear understanding of this situation before they vote!

Richard Michalski