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E-M:/ local development

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


I wanted to respond to one comment you made:

"If we had our way, our Board would love to be able to say to the developers that we're full enough, thank you, go somewhere else.  Unfortunately, everyone has the right to develop their property to its highest and best use."

Although many developers like to claim that they are entitled to "the highest and best use" of their property, actually, they are entitled to the use of their property according to the zoning laws of your community.  This isn't always "the highest and best use" of the property but the courts are supposed to give deference to local zoning laws unless the laws can be shown to be so restrictive as to be confiscatory.  Otherwise, anyone who wanted to develop their property would claim that they should be entitled to commercial zoning or high-density residential development.

So, your community has every right to implement reasonable zoning laws to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community [and to protect the property-rights of other landowners].  Your community also has the right to regulate development so that the rights of the entire community are protected - no one property owner has the right to develop without regulation to the detriment to the community as a whole.

It sounds like one of the problems is your status as a general law township.  In Novi [a charter City], site condominiums must meet the same standards as subdivisions.  As all of these standards are covered by City ordinances, they effectively prevent developers from circumventing the protections of the ordinances by going the site condo route [but this wasn't always the case and we used to be in the same boat that you were].  I don't know if general law townships can adopt their own subdivision or site condo ordinances.

We also have both woodlands and wetlands ordinances that are fairly protective of the environmental resources in the community.  These ordinances generally require any activities involving regulated woodlands and wetlands to be reviewed before they are approved.  This ensures that people are not indiscriminately chopping down every tree in town.  It doesn't always stop the degredation of these resources but it does give some protection.

Finally, effective Master-planning can help you at least manage growth effectively.  Too many communities have no idea what scope of development their current zoning ordinances allow.  Ypsilanti Township recently "downzoned" large sections of residential areas after their Master Planning process identified that the local roads would be overwhelmed if development continued based on the then-current zoning standards.   Novi went through the same process a few years ago.  Most importantly, it can allow you to concentrate your growth in areas that can support it and away from areas that can not or should not be growing.  Too many rural and suburban township are allowing scattershot growth which is wreaking havoc on the environment and local taxpayers.

Andrew Mutch
City of Novi Planning Commissioner

Bonnie Shupe wrote:

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from "Bonnie Shupe" <BONNIES@cannontwp.org>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A couple answers - no tree ordinance yet.  Our ordinance committee that is working on the stormwater ordinance is looking at some tree ordinances from other areas.  Our concern is that once we've approved a PUD, we have control over tree removal and other excavating, but any land owner by right (state given) can harvest the trees on his property.  We're trying to see if there is a way to prevent that.
> This leads into the issue about state laws hampering our ability to protect the environment.  A couple examples - the plat act, the land division laws are both state laws.  We have to abide by them.  We recently had a developer choose to develop using  site condominimum regulations.  The rules governing these developments cannot (by state law) be any more stingent than the subdivision act.  Because we are a general law township, the state does not allow us to enforce soil erosion - we must rely on the County Road Commission. (we're working to change that legislation).  Mobile home parks are allowed to go in almost by right.  Now it looks like intensive livestock operations may also get that opportunity.  The State limits much of what we can refuse based on property rights laws.
> If we had our way, our Board would love to be able to say to the developers that we're full enough, thank you, go somewhere else.  Unfortunately, everyone has the right to develop their property to its highest and best use.  We certainly didn't come up with that idea.  We have the task of making sure there is a balance between protection of the environment and the rights of the property owners to develop their land.  We do the best we can with the laws we have to work with.
> Bonnie Shupe, Cannon Township Clerk/Watershed Administrator
> >

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