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E-M:/ "All My Communities III"



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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I realize those following the love triangle among Meridian Twp., East Lansing
and Lansing have yearned for updates.  My apologies -- the action has been so
fast and furious as to forestall episodic reporting.  

Overview: We are fast approaching the end game in the fight over the
Governor's Club in Meridian Township, though this is the kind of fight that
continues on for years in the courts or could lead to legislative review of
the laws that led to this mess.  Like any potboiler, this story gets more
convoluted and murky as the end comes near. Crucial dates in the next few
weeks -- more details on each are offered below:

****Tuesday, July 6th -- Meeting virtually simultaneously several miles apart,
the Lansing City Council and the Meridian Twp. Board will consider the
proposed 425 Agreement on the Governor's Club. Call these officials NOW if you
want to have your concerns heard, because the night of the decision will
likely be too late.

****Thursday, July 15th -- All Meridian Twp. voters can vote on rezoning
referendum on Governor's Club, a vote rendered virtually meaningless by a Twp
rezoning action a few weeks ago

****Monday, July 19th -- East Lansing voters and about 10 voters within the
boundaries of the proposed area of Meridian Twp. to be annexed will vote on
annexation.  A majority of voters in EACH jurisdiction must approve for the
annexation to go ahead.

The Story Continues: the last report gave you a rundown of comments before the
Lansing City Council and the Meridian Twp. Board on the proposed 425 Agreement
regarding about 1000 acres of MSU and the proposed site of the Governor's
Club.  The 425 was triggered by an annexation threat by East Lansing, and that
was triggered by the developer not wanting to be subjected to a vote of
Meridian Twp. residents on whether the zoning was appropriate for the site.  

Since that time, one fact which has received virtually no attention is that
five new voters, residents of the area proposed for annexation by the City of
East Lansing, were added to voter lists prior to the close of registration for
the annexation vote.  This is extremely significant because there were
previously 5 voters within the Meridian Twp. area to be annexed,
of which 4 are members of the family whose property is to be developed.  The
additional voters, who inhabitat residences on the various farms maintained by
MSU in the acreage to be annexed, totally change the dynamic of the
annexation, making it a strong possibility that the annexation will be voted
down.  This is important because the ONLY reason Meridian Twp. was supposedly
pursuing the 425 Agreement with Lansing was the threat of annexation of the
property.  Or was it?

The 425 Agreement has gone through continual changes since the hearings held
mid-month, however it appears that many of the most basic concerns raised by
residents of Meridian Twp. have been ignored as the deal marches towards final
votes.  By contrast, changes have been made to address a number of issues
raised by City of Lansing residents, Ingham County Road Commission concerns,
and supposedly concerns raised by Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann are on
their way to being addressed, though the language has not emerged. 

With the added uncertainty of whether the annexation vote would succeed, there
had been speculation that the Twp. Board negotiation team might see this as a
golden opportunity to improve the deal as much as possible for the Twp. or to
set up an escape clause that would allow the Township to regain total control
of the area if the annexation fails. That could still happen, however the
latest draft of the 425 Agreement has little to benefit the Twp., and provides
no escape clause.  

In addition, a majority of the Meridian Twp. Board approved a massive mailing
of a flyer produced at taxpayer expense, which according to some reports may
have been recommended by the developer's public relations firm, to all
residents of the Township describing the 425 as a "win,win" situation, even
BEFORE the vote on the 425 Agreement has been taken.  Because the two
governing bodies will be making a decision on the same night, unless there is
a direct phone hookup between them to allow last minute negotiations, it is
hard to envision changes could be incorporated as a result of the public input
on the final version, which opportunity will ONLY occur at the meeting itself.

*****ACTION ITEM***** 

Anyone who is concerned about the Agreement is being encouraged to call the
Lansing City Council members and the Meridian Twp Board members over the next
few days to let their opinions be known, in addition to showing up for the
meetings next Tuesday with the understanding that the meetings will probably
be too late to change the minds of these elected officials.

What is in the 425 Agreement Now:  A fairly thorough comparison of the
disparities between the 425 Agreement as of earlier this week and the Meridian
Twp.  Flyer being sent out touting it has been prepared by a group of
concerned Meridian Twp. residents. **** If anyone on this list wishes to have
it emailed, let me know and I will send it to you.**** The document continues
to be a moving target, but here are some of the major issues, both
good and bad that are in the piece, or are supposedly promised:

THERE IS NOT FINAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN IN THE 425 AGREEMENT:  Ever since the
first version of this proposal there has been a reference to an "Exhibit C"
which has never been fully produced or appended to the 425 Agreement for
public review.  While a map offered for the public hearing in Meridian Twp on
June 15 showed a sketch plan of the majority of acres which would be single
family housing and a golf course, a 35 acre parcel labeled only Club House
Area continues, just days before the expected final vote, to be an absolute
blank.  

The text of the 425 Agreement says that if the plan spelled out in
Exhibit C is not followed, then a whole array of other things will happen on
the 35 acres (the golf course/residential parcel is restricted to a housing
density on one house per acre if no golf course is built). In fact, there are
4 distinct options lined up like a menu for choosing one from the list
interchangably! The first everything and the kitchen sink thrown in (48
hotel suites, 40 condos, bowling alley, restaurant, driving range, fitness
center, swimming pool -- ALL on 35 acres!). Second and third, oddly revert to
Meridian Twp zoning categories, even though this is in Lansing's jurisdiction,
with #2 offering Professional Office zoning uses, and #3 offering Research
Park zoning uses.  The fourth says they could alternatively build housing
units at one per acre.  The net effect is that they have at least four
distinct zoning districts available to them on one 35 acre piece of property,
and that is only IF the Exhibit C is not pursued!! In addition, this is all at
Lansing standards, so the hotel, for example, could be probably be taller than
the 35 foot limit Meridian Twp has, signage would be under Lansing standards,
etc.

WETLANDS AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS: As the 425 Agreement took
shape, it quickly became apparent that Ingham Cty. Drain Commissioner Pat
Lindemann was being left out of oversight of the project, which would fall to
him naturally under the Meridian Twp. control. (Lindemann is praised as being
one of the very few Drain Com who uses the power of the office very
intentionally to promote environmental protection, water quality concerns,
etc.)  A second draft actually went so far as to split the land area into two,
putting the MSU property under the Drain Com control, while putting the Gov's
Club complex under less rigorous regulatory oversight of the City of Lansing.
The lack of relative rigor represents the nature of the lands involved, since
the areas outside the cities in the county tend to pose much larger and more
complex issues relating to wetlands, water retention and run off, etc.

Lindemann was not one to take this laying down, and took his case to both
Meridian Twp and to the Lansing City Council. His concerns caused the Council
to delay consideration of the project for a week and to offer a public meeting
at which the concerns could be discussed, less than a week before the final
votes were to occur. Mayor David Hollister of Lansing preempted that Council
meeting by meeting privately with Lindemann and offering him a role in the
process, though the written details have yet to be provided to the public. 
The preempting of the meeting, which would have allowed public comment,
unfortunately leaves the only remaining opportunity to raise concerns in a
public forum to the City Council at the July 6th decision meeting.

A second set of environmental concerns is raised by the preemption of Meridian
Twp ordinances, including flood plain and wetlands considerations that are on
the books in the Twp.  Even though the agreement is now a mixture of City and
Twp zoning provisions, these critical zoning requirements are no where to be
seen.

TAX INEQUITIES SHIFTED BUT STILL UNEQUAL:  The original draft 425 called for
the property involved to be very clearly under Lansing control, including
giving the residents in the area a vote in Lansing.  However, they decided to
exempt these people from paying Lansing's income tax.  This inequity raised
both political and potentially legal concerns about the proposal, and so it
was changed.  Now the residents would be voters in Meridian Twp., however they
would pay property taxes at the rate charged by the city of Lansing, which is
significantly higher.  The City would then send an amount comparable to the
millage rate which would be charged by Meridian Twp. back to the Twp, as long
as it is only 1/2 or less the rate of the City tax.  Clearly, they also
anticipate that this idea will likely be shot down by someone because there is
an escape cause -- in case the taxing setup is challenged successfully, the
rate of property tax falls to the Meridian Twp level, BUT 1/2 of it must go to
Lansing!  Since Lansing is not providing the kinds of services that are paid
for out of property taxes (water, sewer and electricity are all fee based
services) they will still get all of their money for service AND fee tax money
on top!  Meridian Twp will instead still have to provide all the services paid
for through the taxes (fire, police, EMT, library, etc.) but will now have 1/2
the money they would have to do this normally.

TIME LIMIT FOR AGREEMENT IS LONGEST POSSIBLE: Another question that arises in
the agreement, but is never addressed, is why the Twp and City are striking
the longest possible agreement available: 50 years, with an automatical
renewal for another 50 years unless one or the other submits a letter 60 days
in advance saying they wish to withdraw.  If the goal were thwart annexation
and to have Lansing help Meridian Twp. this would have been as short a time
frame as possible, many have pointed out, so that Meridian regains control.


There are many other issues that still exist in this debate, some worsened by
the current draft, some improved.  If  you wish to see the full 425 Agreement
and are a resident of the Lansing area, be sure to ask the City or Twp. to
provide a copy -- it is not clear it is readily available, since it is
changing, but it is clearly their duty to let concerned citizens know what
they are likely to vote on next Tuesday!


Anne Woiwode



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