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E-M:/ All My Communities: Plot Twists!

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

If you like plot twists, you will LOVE the newest happenings on the Governor's
Club golf course development project in Meridian Twp. outside of Lansing.
When we last left our story, the city of Lansing and Meridian Twp had struck a
contract under PA 425 of 1984 which allows Lansing to get a portion of the tax
revenue from the proposed development in exchange for providing some
utilities, while thwarting threats of annexation by East Lansing and taking
away the rights of either Lansing or Meridian Twp. residents to have a say in
the ultimate development design (including hotel/restaurant/condos/bowling
alleys etc that popped up only in the 425 agreement).  Since the 425 agreement
was adopted by both communities, the vote on proposed annexation by East
Lansing was turned down when the Meridian Twp. area residents voted 8 to 1 to
reject the annexation, and a rezoning referendum which kicked off the fast and
loose flurry of activities went down to defeat as well.

Yesterday, Judge William Collette of Ingham County Circuit Court placed a
preliminary injunction on any activities related to the Governor's Club
development in response to a lawsuit brought by a 21 year old Michigan State
University student who lives in the area of Meridian Twp included in the 425
agreement.  The suit, brought by attorney Howard Soifer of Lansing, evidently
challenges th astonishing gerrymandering job done by the twp and the city to
assure that only one family would be able to have any say whatsoever in
whether or not the 425 agreement could be challenged.  

Under Act 425, residents of an area involved in the contract may bring a
referendum to challenge the agreement. Cognizant of that clause, the drafters
of this 425 agreement literally drew out dozens of buildings on MSU's farms,
adjacent to the proposed development, disenfranchising somewhere around 10
voters who live in and are registered to vote in Meridian Twp.  As attorney
Soifer states in an Lansing State Journal article: "The deal looks like Swiss
cheese. Every place where there was a building where anyone could live and
vote on the deal they took out."

Judge Collette's comments echoed those of Soifer's: "It strikes me to not be
the legislative intent to allow you to gerrymander people in and out of the
area."  Collette's preliminary injunction puts a hold on the plans of the
developers to break ground in mid-August, and indications are that the full
court case on this matter will begin within a couple of months.  

So what does this mean?  While not the final word on the deal, Judge
Collette's injunction is VERY heartening because it goes to the heart of the
rights of residents of an area and a community to have a say in decisions
which influence their lives.  Collette was quoted saying "We are apparently so
caught up in our society with grabbing land for tax dollars, we lose sight of
the real purpose of government, which is to serve people in the affected
area." He criticized the deal as "inappropriate" and "piecemeal".  

Applying the brakes also raises a fascinating question as well.  With both
the annexation and rezoning votes that were thought to threaten Meridian's
control of this development out of the way, it seems like this is the ideal
chance for Meridian Twp. to simply say GREAT, we are back in the driver's seat
and we can let the 425 agreement be thrown out.  Lansing and Meridian
can on their own terminate the 425 agreement, and since Lansing has claimed
from day one that their only interest was in helping Meridian Twp thwart the
annexation, that goal could now be realized because the threats which had
existed have been extinguished.

Of course, that would take leadership, including foregoing the grandiose plans
from an enormous development in the Governor's Club clubhouse area, and
dealing with any regionalization of water and sewer services through an
appropriate and deliberate process.  And that would mean that developers in
Meridian Twp. salivating over virtually unlimited increased sewer capacity and
banking on that increase to shoot large holes in the existing Master Plan for
the Twp. which includes a now threatened Urban Services Boundary, would be
forced to back off and live again within the reasonable limits of the Twp's
existing sewer capacity.

Needless to say, this story is probably not at its end just yet.

Anne Woiwode

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