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Re: E-M:/ Re: SG-W:/ Maunfactured Housing

Enviro-Mich message from "Andrew I. Mutch" <amutch@waterford.lib.mi.us>


Landon is notorious for the bully tactics with rural township and MH
parks.  They had the audacity to try to force a MH park in Superior
Township adjacent to the properties that the Southeast Michigan Land
Conservancy and Superior Township had preserved in the heart of the
Township.  Of course, the location had no water or sewer service but why
should that matter??  Last I heard, Superior had successfully fought off
Landon but I think they've been the exception.

The big problem is that many of the rural townships do not have the legal
resources or advice to fight these developers.  Unfortunately, there has
been a myth created among municipal attorneys that the Michigan courts
always side with the MH developers - NOT TRUE!  However, facing this
advice, too many townships simply give in to the MH developers.  Even when
they wish to fight, they often don't have the $$ to fight the protracted
court battles.  They can't afford to raise taxes or cut essential services
even though the long-term cost of giving-in is even higher.

Unless a township is deliberately excluding MH development, they have a
decent chance in the courts.  The courts have recognized the impact of MH
development and have sided with townships and against the developers when
the townships can show that the proposed site is inappropriate.  However,
townships need to be sure that they are providing locations for this kind
of development -- areas with water and sewer service and access to paved
roads -- typically near incorporated villages and cities.  This forces
township Boards and planners to make hard decisions about siting these
developments but better that they make that decision than the courts
making it for them!!  Also, townships should ensure that in their siting
locations, they limit the size of these potential parks.  Don't rezone 200
acres of land for MH development if you do not want an 800 unit park.
Instead, target smaller parcels of land that provide a more manageable
size development.  Also, explore alternatives to providing affordable
housing like small-lot clusters and neo-traditional village plats.  MH's
are not the only affordable housing options.

Also, townships that want to claim that they are protecting agricultural
areas need to be serious in their efforts to do so!  One township
successfully fought off a MH development because they were able to show
through their Master Plan and zoning that they were legitimately trying to
preserve an area for agricultural use.  If a township tries to claim that
a MH park is locating in an agricultural area but the township itself has
made no efforts to preserve agricultural land uses or the township is
allowing sprawling residential development, the courts are not going to
look favorably on their argument.

Andrew Mutch

On Fri, 26 May 2000, Bonnie Shupe wrote:

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from "Bonnie Shupe" <BONNIES@cannontwp.org>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> For your information, in Kent County, the notorious Landon Holdings, Inc. is currently suing both Grattan and Courtland Townships over mobile housing issues.  They have proposed developments in each township.  It seems their strategy is to attack in areas where they know the municipality has very little money to defend a court case.  We're trying to help Grattan in whatever way we can since Cannon Township is affected just as much or maybe even more by the proposed development there.
> In the Grattan situation, Landon is proposing a 800 unit mobile home park on 200 acres in an area near the headwaters of the Bear Creek Watershed.  There is no sewer system hook-up available there.  I shudder to think of what could happen if this goes in there.  Not to mention the impact on Rockford Schools, a system that is already growing so fast that most schools have had additions, portable classrooms, and new schools (2  in Cannon Township over the last year).
> We definitely have to change something to take away the power this industry has in our state.
> Bonnie Shupe, Cannon Township Clerk and Watershed Administrator
> >>> "Jennie Breuninger" <breuninger@fbwebmaster.com> 05/25/00 12:40PM >>>
> Dear Andrea,
> Thanks for your message.  I am aware of the Stockbridge "battle" as I have run into S. DeRoo at meetings re:Mobile Home Parks, I also have e-mail G.Winn dealing with this matter.  I am unfortunately not an organization, but I think we could try to get some groups working together to change this.  Has Stockbridge contacted your representatives yet? I am sure the residents in your community make up a fairly good sized constituency, nagging your rep. can help.  And calling Scranton, and Garcia with your situation may help to keep their efforts going.
>   One of the things that is in your favor is the water issue.There is a state-wide effort being made to clean up the poor conditions of our rivers and tributaries, I'm sure the watershed groups have information is to what those goals are. (Any watershed folks can jump into this conversation and clue us in).
> With respect to legal assistance the Michigan Land Use Institute has 2 lawyers that help them with land use cases here's their website www.MLUI.com e-mail them, they will get back to you promptly with the info.
> They also put out a quarterly magazine "The Great Lakes Bulletin", I think this problem would make a great article for one of their issues ( any MLUI people reading this...what do you say?).
> How much acreage has been rezoned from agriculture to MH?
> I am attempting to find out approximately how much farmland is lost to this particular type of development.
> In Lima we will lose 136 acres to MH.
> In yesterdays Detroit News there was an article about Tyrone Township being sued by a mobile home developer (the evil Mr.Landon) for $2 million.  They will lose 148 acres of farmland to house a 642 unit park.
> So we have a running tally so far of ... 284 acres of farmland.
> Anyone else out there losing farmland to a mobile home park let me know how many acres.
> Lets work together on this, we have got enough people on the short end of the stick to have things continue.
> Jennie
>     -----Original Message-----
>     From: andrea kline <klineoff@mich.com>
>     To: Jennie Breuninger <breuninger@fbwebmaster.com>; Laura Rubin <lrubin@hrwc.org>
>     Cc: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net <enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>
>     Date: Thursday, May 25, 2000 4:18 AM
>     Subject: Re: SG-W:/ Maunfactured Housing
>     We are currently fighting a 750-unit mobile home park development in
>     Stockbridge Township.  The township board, feeling powerless to do anything
>     to protect their constituents, has signed a consent agreement that basically
>     strips them of any ability to contest the development (and pays the developers legal fees to boot) .  The developer is in
>     the process of trying to get permits for their sewage treatment plant and
>     water supply system from the MDEQ.  Once these permits are in hand, there is
>     nothing stopping the development of a project that will increase the
>     population of the township by over 60%, increase the traffic on Shepper Road
>     from 540 to 6,000 vehicles per day, etc., all in exchange for a development
>     in which the occupants will be paying $36 per year in taxes.  In other
>     words, there will be significant adverse impacts on all residents of the
>     Township and Stockbridge school district.
>     The MDEQ originally issued a draft NPDES permit allowing discharge of 0.5
>     mg/l of phosphorus to Portage Creek, the largest tributary of the Huron
>     River.  After the public raised concerns about the impacts of the discharge
>     on water quality, the MDEQ actually did some water sampling (the original
>     draft permit conditions were not based on any empirical water quality data)
>     and found that conditions in the creek and downstream lakes were highly
>     eutrophic.  Based on this information, they reduced the phosphorus limits in
>     the draft permit to 0.036 mg/l, which we have been told in nearly impossible
>     to achieve with existing technology.  It is amazing how understanding
>     existing conditions can influence these decisions, and it is amazing that it
>     takes public pressure to force the agency charged with protecting the public
>     interest to take the impacts of such a discharge into account when reviewing
>     permit applications.  But that is another topic.
>     Anyway, the current status is that both the MDEQ and developer have taken
>     additional water samples and the MDEQ is mulling over the possiblity of
>     revising the phosphorus limits to 0.1 mg/l.  If a permit is issued, we have
>     the option to contest the decision in court.  We have standing due to the
>     fact that we submitted comment during the public comment period.  The Huron
>     River Watershed Council has been providing technical support but we have not
>     yet discussed what role they may be willing provide if a permit is issued
>     and we decide to go to court.  Does your organization provide legal support
>     in cases like this?  Do you know of any attorneys that you would recommend?
>     Are you involved in any efforts to change our currently screwed-up mobile
>     home regulations?  Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
>     Thanks, Andrea Kline
>         ----- Original Message ----- 
>         From: Jennie Breuninger 
>         To: Laura Rubin 
>         Cc: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net 
>         Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2000 3:45 PM
>         Subject: Re: SG-W:/ Maunfactured Housing
>         Laura,
>         Thanks for responding.  One way to impact the process is to get individuals of your group and members of other watershed groups from around Michigan to contact (ASAP, as these bills need to be ready by June before the House leaves for summer vacation) their Representative, and Rep. Scranton, and Rep. Garcia- I'll give you their numbers and e-mail to pass along.  I think it is necessary to get a broad spectrum of constituents to pressure change because this industry is big and has a Lot of apparent supporters in the political arena.  FYI: Michigan is one of only 2 states that have a commission at the State level.  Most other States don't have to contend with this particular industry when addressing issues relating to sprawl.  Lucky us!  Anyway, if members of watershed groups mobilized, and members of MEC mobilized, and members of other environmental organizations focused on this issue it would get taken more serious.  It needs to become an issue.
>         Rep.Judith Scranton: 1-800-295-0066; e-mail jscrant@house.state.mi.us.  Rep.Scranton is the only member that was also on the task force looking into this in 1997, she's the "leader".
>         Rep.Valde Gracia: 1-888-755-8686; e-mail vgarcia@house.state.mi.us 
>         When we talk about farmland being used up to accommodate development, we can't ignore this sector.  They have a habit of targeting financially weak rural townships that have farmland available.  In Lima township (where we farm) they want to rezone 136 acres of really good farmland.  In order to get as much profit out of the land they would like to fill in a large wetland and mow down 40+ acres of old growth oak.
>         There is now a new "park" going in in the Saline area on what was formerly farmland.
>         There is a "park" attempting to be developed in Sharon Twp. on what is farmland.
>         There is a " park" attempting to be developed in Stockbridge on... yes Farmland.
>         And in Grasslake there is a "park" going in.
>         I am astounded to think there is such a need for so many parks.  Is this really being driven by an insatiable hunger of many to live in these places?  Or could it be the approximately 36% return on ones investment that fuels this type of development?  Tough one to figure out huh? 
>         So there are my suggestions, let me know what you think.
>         Jennie
>             -----Original Message-----
>             From: Laura Rubin <lrubin@hrwc.org>
>             To: Jennie Breuninger <breuninger@fbwebmaster.com>
>             Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2000 6:53 AM
>             Subject: Re: SG-W:/ Maunfactured Housing
>             I am the E.D. of the Huron River Watershed Council in SE Michigan and we are very concerned about the impacts of Mobile Home Park Development on water quality/land use impacts.  How can we get involved or have some impact in this process?
>             Thanks, Laura
>                 ----- Original Message ----- 
>                 From: Jennie Breuninger 
>                 To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net 
>                 Cc: smartgrowth 
>                 Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2000 10:29 PM
>                 Subject: SG-W:/ Maunfactured Housing
>                 Here's another environmental issue working its way through the House.  Changing the way Mobile Home Parks do business in Michigan.  I don't know where this falls with respect to timber mandates and "slob" farming, but it certainly is an industry that is making some very big impacts on rural townships and the environment.  Mondays edition of the Detroit News had a front page article highlighting again the disparities between the taxes mobile home park residents pay Vs. property owners.  Rep. Judith Scranton and Rep. Valde Garcia are heading up ANOTHER task force (the Engler administration created a task force to look into this in 1997) to try change the state law.  These behemoth developments definitely give birth to sprawl by the simple fact that they require greater amounts of services yet don't pay for them, thereby almost requiring townships to invite industry and commercial businesses into areas just to help cover the expense of these parks  And if that!
> 't enough, many parks have on site sewer/water treatment plants that have a high failure rate, which in turn tend to spill into water ways and pollute.  And let's not forget the amount of impervious surfaces rolled out to support these very unsustainable "houses".  Anyway, these bills always get buried because there are not enough people around the state feeling the impacts of this industry. Yet townships need to have a way to put limits on how many housing units one park can hold and try to place them in places with existing sewer.  But many developers, when they don't get a rezoning permit approved take rural townships to court, and again property tax payers pay, and usually lose. 
>                  Here's another opportunity to change bad policy and put forth a common sense approach to land use, but it will take many people being vocal and letting their representatives know that this industry has to change. Or we can just deal with another 50 years of business as usual, and there will be no rural townships anymore.
>                 Jennie B.
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