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E-M:/ Meridian Twp UPDATE

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

Yes, I know you have all missed the soap opera updates from Meridian 
Township.  It is not that things have been quiet, it is just that the most 
outrageous stuff has had little to do with environmental issues recently, 
so have not been appropriate for posting on Enviro-Mich.  But, not 
surprisingly, that has been remedied!

Developer sues to overturn referendum

On January 19, the owner/developer of a parcel whose rezoning to commercial 
from residential was overturned by a vote of the people in Meridian Twp., 
filed suit in Igham County Court to have the referendum thrown out.  
Reading the complaint is quite an experience.  Aside from 
misrepresentations of fact (including maps that inaccurately show the 
parcel on the Twp's Master Plan) the complaint ignores entirely that state 
law allows the voters of a community to bring a referendum on a rezoning to 
to act as the appeal body for decisions of the elected officials.  In fact, 
it is abundantly clear that the underlying intent of this and similar 
litigation is to get rid of this critical right of citizens in Michigan to 
revisit on the ballot controversial decisions on zoning in their 

Even more outrageous, however, is the quote from the atty. for the 
developer which appears in the Community News today.  Howard Soifer of 
Loomis, Ewert et al. is quoted as saying about the overturning of the 
zoning by the voters that "it would be synonymous to the voters of Meridian 
Township  passing a law that no blacks or Jews can live in Meridian 
Township."  Soifer argues that the rezoning deprived the developer of its 
rightful use of its land, even though there was and is nothing preventing 
the property from being developed consistent with its current zoning (a 
portion commercial, a portion multi-family residential, a portion single 
family residential). In fact, it becomes clear that the logical progression 
of the position of this developer through their attorney is that virtually 
any zoning would be illegal and a violation of the rights of the landowner. 
 This seems to reflect the increasingly aggressive attitudes of some 
developers who chafe at the idea that they are required to meet any 
standards that protect the community's interest and provide balance between 
the interests of the developer and the community.  

One of the dilemmas of this kind of case, however, is also clear.  The 
voters had to act in order to overturn an action of their Township Board 
that was in conflict with community values, as well as with the 
Comprehensive Plan for the township in this case.  Yet, the defendant is 
the very Township Board that spurned the concerns of the community in 
approving the zoning in the first place.  And this Board has already been 
the losing party on a lawsuit brought by another developer challenging a 
previous referendum.  There is an inherent conflict of interest for the 
defendant in such lawsuits which puts the developer and the elected 
officials on the same side versus the voters of the community, who are not 
automatically party to such a case. 

Since this case has just been filed, it is not clear when this issue will 
be argued in court.

Meridian Issues Committee calls Town Hall Meeting

In reaction what is by unanimous consent the most contentious community in 
the state of Michigan on land use and virtually every other issue, a group 
of Meridian Township residents have joined together to try to reinject 
civility and common sense into our community, and to restore the community 
values and spirit that we all once shared.  To that end, the Meridian 
Issues Committee has called a Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, February 3, at 
the Township Hall building.  This Town Hall Meeting will provide a chance 
for residents who have become increasingly disillusioned with our township 
government to share their ideas, visions and concerns for the community, 
including on issues such a traffic, preservation of green space and other 
issues the influence our quality of life.  The Town Hall Meeting starts at 
7 p.m., and will be televised on the HOM-TV cable channel in Meridian 
Township.  All Meridian Twp. residents are welcome!

Anne Woiwode

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