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E-M:/ All My Communities: The Voters Say NO



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Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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Midst the Meridian Morass, the voters who voted said NO to the land use
directions and schemes of the current Township Board. 

First, a rezoning scheme in the middle of the twp (Newman Equities) that
sought to convert about 40 acres of residential zoning to commercial was
overwhelmingly defeated.  Over 2000 signatures had been collected to put the
measure on the ballot.

Second, a portion of the exceedingly controversial 425 Agreement between
Lansing and Meridian Twp put on the ballot by the Twp. Board was DEFEATED as
well.  This measure deserves more details:  the original 425 Agreement (which
has gotten a lot of write up in this space previously) was forced to be
withdrawn as a result of a lawsuit by an MSU student who was gerrymandered out
of being able to bring a petition to overturn the agreement.  So, Lansing and
Meridian Twp. elected officials went back to their secretive drawing board and
broke the 425 Agreement into two, creating two new agreements.  

One, which was placed on the ballot, took a chunk of MSU property (excluding
the parcel on which the above plaintiff lives) and set up a 425 allegedly to
protect Meridian Twp. lands from future land grabs by the voracious East
Lansing.  This is what was voted down.  

The other new 425 Agreement, however, was the heart of the controversy -- the
Governor's Club housing development, golf course, and potentially enormous
hotel, restaurant, etc. complex.  Despite efforts by Twp. Trustee Sue
McGillicuddy to get this portion put on the ballot as well, the Twp. Board
declined to let voters vote on this issue.  They also effectively eliminated
the possibility of a referendum on this portion by leaving out those who
objected to the development, but without the "swiss cheese" gerrymandering
that left the previous 425 legally vulnerable.  

So, what does this set of votes mean?  That's easy -- the majority
of Meridian's Twp. Board is out of step with its constituents on land use
issues.  But this also will not be the end of the battles even over these
parcels.  The atty. for Newman Equities said last spring that they might well
sue the Twp. of the rezoning is overturned.  The last time a referendum on
rezoning was victorious, a lawsuit was brought by the developer, and the Twp.
Board apparently decided to lose the lawsuit (ie. allow the vote of the people
to be overturned in court) in order to "teach those people a lesson."  Not
surprisingly, they succeeded in losing -- making it abundantly clear that
there will be no attempt to defend the community's interests if this goes to
court.  

Newman Equities is in fact a linchpin on development at the moment -- while
plenty of development controversies are still and already underway (see other
AMC update) , the Newman Equities was the first intrusion into the residential
portion of the eastern, rural part of the township, and the first in direct
conflict with the Township Master Plan.  The rezoning had created an excuse
for the neighboring developer to ask to change their zoning from residential
to commercial as well.

But for now we celebrate the victory!!  

Anne Woiwode



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