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E-M:/ More on sprawl



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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Doug: 

Thanks again for your response.  Some additional ruminations:

The authority to influence development in ways other than direct regulation
is, of course, clear.  Perhaps one of the difficulties we are experiencing in
this discussion that I believe you are focussing on potential, which depends
on good will and collaboration, and I am focussing on what the laws allow,
which is the unfortunately often realized worse case scenario.  The fact that
communities have an ability to control growth through urban service
boundaries, etc., is absolutely true.  Meridian Twp. has an urban service
boundary at this moment, but the Meridian Alliance of Developers has requested
that the Twp consider eliminating that USB, and our Planning Commission will
be holding a hearing on that in June (I understand it will be the 21st).  For
ANYONE in the Lansing area concerned about sprawl, this is clearly a critical
hearing and issue to weigh in on.  East Lansing should be there (although the
border crossing guards may have instructions not to let you cross!) because
we share the sewer system, and this throwing out of the USB could drastically
influence your own decisions.  

I appreciate you providing some background to the Governor's Club fiasco.
Under no circumstances should anyone assume that I would defend the current
Meridian Twp. Board's actions.  I am taking this week as vacation to work to
collect enough signatures (with DOZENS of people both inside and outside
Meridian Twp.) to put a very troubling rezoning on the ballot here, and I
would assume that no one who has read my posts would guess that I support this
current board's direction.  Knowing now that East Lansing actually approached
them about collaboration and was told to take a hike sheds a lot more light on
this mess.

This also, though, goes further to my fundamental concern as exemplified by
the Governor's Club.  Developers in Meridian Twp. put up huge amounts
amounts of money in '96 and '98 to assure the election of a Twp.Board that
will go their way on most, if not all development issues.  Not surprisingly,
the candidates they supported did not explain they were getting funded by
developers, and in fact claimed they would be good for "slow growth." Looking
around a Board Meeting in Meridian Twp you quickly realize that the amount of
money being spent on attornies and, in fact, a lobbyist for the developers at
one single meeting of the Twp Board is more than the amount we will spend in a
headlong scramble to collect enough signatures to put this rezoning on the
ballot.  Of course, the number of hours we are volunteering, if set at the
rate the attornies get to sit and keep watch on the board, would be enough to
buy the danged property.  But money talks to make more money here, and has had
the ability to confound good planning and zoning.

But back, briefly, to the Governor's Club.  As I continue to read East
Lansing's official reactions in the press, I am more and more disturbed at the
disconnect between a vision you set out here and what in fact is going on.  I
am not clear from you last message if, in fact, East Lansing will put a
different zoning in place on the property than what Meridian Twp has approved.
There seems to be no indication of that to date in the press.  In fact the
developer has lauded East Lansing on being "pro-development" and the mayor and
the city manager have given a clear impression that the red carpet is rolled
out with no strings attached.  Since the developer is allegedly seeking to go
to East Lansing to start building this summer, and your vote will take place
in either late July or early August, it sure sounds to me like no one in East
Lansing is going to hold zoning hearings so that the residents can have input
into how this project would be designed.  Again, theoretically annexation
might be a good idea, but so far it looks more like the developer playing
eenie meenie minie moe to get exactly what he wants, than it does East Lansing
using the tools at its disposal to create the best opportunity to fight
sprawl, create smart growth, etc.

Lastly, for the general readers here who have been patient enough to get to
the end of this rant and rave (R&R), one factual issue is important to get out
here about the Governor's Club.  There has been a real misinterpretation of
the intention of those pursuing the rezoning issue, and I am just getting
clear on it myself recently.  Evidently, there is a legitimate concern that
there is a good chance that this project, or any like it, could fail.  Golf
courses reportedly change hands on average 3 times before being successful,
and some of those involved in this project have reportedly had failed projects
as well.  If it fails, the zoning that was approved by Meridian Twp
would allow for twice as many houses (using the proposed golf course lands to
develop) than have been talked about (500 instead of 250).  This is what the
petitioners were concerned about, particularly since other zoning options
available to the Twp could have eliminated that possibility.

There has been unbelievable assaults on the people in Meridian Twp who did
circulate petitions regarding this issue.  Claims of fraud, which were found
not to be true but continued to be mouthed by some Twp Board members long
after the petitioners were cleared by the County Prosecutor.  Last week, Board
members read the names of all who circulated the petitions to blame them for
causing the loss of the Gov's Club, never taking any responsibility for their
failure to have done what would have resolved the concerns of the petitioners
AND fulfilled the plans of the developer.  This public attempt at shaming
those people who were exercising their legal right to disagree with a
zoning decision in this community conjures up the worst of our society.  It
was clearly done to discourage the use of legitimate tools for citizens of
this community to use to challenge bad decisions by our elected officials.  I
am just glad to see, as we talk to voters, that most are not intimidated and
are still willing to consider signing our rezoning petition, whether they
agree with us or not.  But the trend is truly disturbing, and I don't wish it
on any other community.

Anne Woiwode



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