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E-M:/ All My Communities: The New Fall Season

Enviro-Mich message from "Tom & Anne Woiwode" <woiwode@voyager.net>

Enviro-Mich friends and soap opera addicts!

Just in time for the new fall season, it appears that Meridian Twp. and the
City of Lansing are hatching some new plot twists for the All My Communities
saga with regard to the Governor's Club, the Act 425 agreement, and the
student.  As we last left our story, a lone sheep herding student from MSU
(and his attorney) had risen to the challenge of returning sanity and
balance to an astonishing and twisted tale of a Sprawl War over a proposed
golf course and development scheme.  (for the whole saga, check out the
Enviro-Mich archive website, address at the bottom of this and all
Enviro-Mich messages!).

Our hero the shepherd filed a lawsuit in Ingham County court a little less
than one month ago protesting that an outrageous feat of gerrymandering had
disenfranchised him (and, by inference, all residents of this area) from
exercising their right to seek a referendum to overturn the 425 Agreement.
The student contended that the map drawn for the 425 Agreement looked like
swiss cheese, with holes where every single building within the affected
area was excluded, thus destroying the rights of these Meridian Twp voters
to submit a petition under Act 425 which would force a vote on the troubling
agreement.   Judge William Collette of Ingham County Court issued a
preliminary injunction and set a trial date two months hence, thus virtually
guaranteeing that the developers of the Governor's Club would miss entirely
their desired window for breaking ground during the summer of 1999.  Judge
Collette also made it clear that he was quite troubled by the situation, and
might well find in favor of the heroic agriculture student.

Let me note, in a brief aside, that for many citizens in both Meridian Twp
and Lansing this lawsuit offered a terrific opportunity for a show of
leadership by our elected officials in both Lansing and Meridian Twp.
Shortly before the filing of the lawsuit the two threats which had led
originally to a 425 Agreement being struck regarding the Governor's Club had
come to an end at the hands of voters.  First, a vote on the rezoning
referendum which pro-development forces claim caused the whole mess in the
first place, resulted in a NO vote from voters of all Meridian Twp., so that
the rezoning failed.  In addition, the proposal to annex the property to
East Lansing, whose leaders had promised to skirt the rezoning referendum
brought by Twp. residents, had failed as the voters of this section of
Meridian Twp said a resounding NO to annexation.  Thus, the decks were
cleared by the injunction won by the student and his attorney for the clock
to be wound back to day one, for Meridian Twp to say NO to the 425 Agreement
and simply retain authority over the land, provide its own ample urban
services to the project, and put the whole nasty deal behind us.  Needless
to say, those who dreamed of such a happy ending to this deal do not
understand that soap operas run on indefinitely, regardless of whether the
plot continues to make sense!

So no one should be surprised that today, Sept 2, 1999, the Lansing State
Journal reports that secret meetings have been going on virtually non-stop
between Lansing and Meridian Twp. officials since the injunction on the 425
Agreement was granted by Judge Collette.  According to the paper, the Twp
and the City are about to once again spring a new convoluted scheme to keep
their sprawl machine rolling forward at full force.   On Tuesday, just days
away and one day after Labor Day, it appears both communities will once
again hold simultaneous Public Hearings on a new, revised 425 Agreement in
hopes of undercutting the student's lawsuit (and as observed by his atty.
giving a strong impression that the suit was a winner).

The new 425 Agreement proposal evidently may take one of two shapes. One
would cut the current single 425 Agreement into two parts, one for the MSU
land involved and the other for just the Governor's Club. This scheme is
apparently intended to reenfranchise the students on the MSU property but
eliminate their opportunity to address the real issue of concern which is
the construction directly across the road from a massive agricultural
operation a large, fancy golf course, development, hotel, condos,
restaurant, etc.   The second scheme would simply drop the MSU land entirely
from the 425 Agreement, thus evidently, the schemers seem to think,
eliminating all controversy about the gerrymandering and mooting the court

Why is the 425 Agreement still sought by the Twp and the City?  The reasons
of the powers that be in the two communities are different, but evidently
coincide in what might be captured by the phrase "damn the sprawl, full
build out ahead!!".  First, Lansing apparently has too much  sewer capacity
for a variety of reasons, and is seeking to create new customers for this
utility, as well as for their Bd. of Water and Light electric power and
water capacity as well.  Lansing's top officials are practically tripping
over themselves to "help" Meridian Twp. out of a mess that no longer exists
because it will sell their utilities.

Meridian Twp.'s elected officials seem to have two agendas at work.  First,
the "club house" area of the Governor's Club will be able to greatly exceed
the zoning limitations of Meridian's Twp. Zoning ordinance, AND to avoid any
public hearings or review of the complex (which now could include a hotel,
restaurant, condominiums, bowling alley, etc.)  Meridian Twp's Board is also
evidently hearing the excited whispers of the platoon of builders who pretty
much call the shots for the Board these days.  The excess water and sewer
capacity could create the excuse they have dreamed of to pull out all the
stops on the already unbelievable rate of development in the Twp.  With the
debate under way right now about whether or not the Twp should keep its
Urban Services Boundary, the 425 Agreement is already being cited as a
reason to get rid of this smart growth tool.

So don't get too comfortable in that easy chair just yet, especially if you
live in the vicinity of Lansing.  Remember, this is a participatory soap
opera, where YOU could be key to writing the next chapter, and changing a
deeply troubling story to one where the good guys win and everyone (except
the Snidely Whiplashes of the world) lives happily ever after in communities
where the quality of life is great, and sprawl has been stopped.

Give it a shot -- show up next Tuesday at either the Lansing City Council or
Meridian Twp. Board meeting and tell them  WE DON'T WANT NO STINKING 425

Thank you all for any help you can give!

Anne Woiwode
(temporarily writing from our home computer -- my normal email is
anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org )  

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