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Re: E-M:/ RE: / Meridian Township Land Preservation Millage



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

I apologize for the delinquency of this response.  I set this aside, then
never got back to it.

You raise an excellent question.  It's a question that a lot of land trusts
face, too--that being, how permanent is permanent?

One alternative would be to establish a back-up institution.  The township
(or any other conservation agency) could purchase the property, then convey
a conservation easement to a local land trust.  That way any changes in
plans by the local municipality would have to go through another
institution, this one established for conservation purposes.

Meridian Township recommended a slightly different approach.  The Land
Preservation Committee recommended that any legal interest in property
purchased through this program would have to receive a super-majority vote
of 75% of the public before there could be a change in status.  That is, if
a future township board wanted to sell property purchased through this
program, a referendum would have to be approved by 75% of the voters before
they could sell the property.

We did that because we understand there may be a change in circumstances
decades down the road; but wanted to make sure those changes were
universally supported community wide; hence the super-majority.

Tom
*************************************************************************
Tom Woiwode
5088 Powell Road
Okemos, MI  48864
517.349.7182 phone
517.349.8247 fax
woiwode@voyager.net


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>From: "Harris, Craig" <Craig.Harris@ssc.msu.edu>
>To: "'Tom & Anne Woiwode'" <woiwode@voyager.net>, enviro-Mich@great-lakes.net
>Subject: E-M:/ RE: / Meridian Township Land Preservation Millage
>Date: Sat, Nov 11, 2000, 12:31 PM
>

> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from "Harris, Craig" <Craig.Harris@ssc.msu.edu>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> tom,
> thanks for the details about the meridian township land preservation millage
> . . .
> one question occurs to me: when millage funds are used to acquire either
> development rights (pdr) or land in fee simple, what is the permanency of
> that acquisition . . . could an anti-preservation township board, at some
> point in the future, sell the development rights or the land acquired
> cheers,
> craig
>
> craig k harris
> department of sociology
> center for integrated plant systems
> michigan state university
> 429b berkey hall
> east lansing  michigan  48824-1111
> tel:  517-355-5048
> fax:  517-432-2856
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tom & Anne Woiwode [mailto:woiwode@voyager.net]
> Sent: Saturday 11 November 2000 12:07
> To: enviro-Mich@great-lakes.net
> Subject: E-M:/ Meridian Township Land Preservation Millage
>
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Enviro-Mich message from "Tom & Anne Woiwode" <woiwode@voyager.net>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> A number of people have written to ask for more information about the land
> preservation millage passing in Meridian Township, with the possibility that
> what happened here might be applicable in their own communities.  Rather
> than answer each inquiry individually, I thought I'd use this forum to
> provide a brief blow-by-blow, then invite anyone who wanted information to
> send me their address.
>
> The Land Preservation Millage campaign benefited from a series of
> attitudinal surveys conducted over the past 6-8 years.  Consistently, the
> residents of Meridian Township have indicated by a wide margin (usually 2/3)
> a strong interest in the landscape and the need to protect the diminishing
> natural resources of the township (it's very wet).
>
> Combine that with the overt hostility of the (now past) administration,
> which did everything to encourage development, including the elimination of
> an Urban Services Boundary and the approval of projects that contradicted
> the Master Plan 2/3 of the time, and you have a strong grassroots
> groundswell for support.
>
> The Meridian BiPartisan Leadership (MBL), the saga of which you've been
> reading about on these pages over the past few months, made land use and
> adherence to wise land practices as one of the cornerstones of their
> campaign.  That elevated the profile of the issue during the political
> season.
>
> The millage idea was actually floated about a year ago by the (now past)
> treasurer, who put together a very poorly thought out idea, with virtually
> no input, and brought it to the board for consideration.  Everyone who
> watched that process concluded that it was most likely done to get the issue
> defeated, and then those on the board unsympathetic to this issue could say
> the public had spoken, and was not sympathetic.  Fortunately, however, the
> very serious flaws in the earlier proposal were quite apparent and it was
> never acted upon, which meant the voters never got a chance to respond to
> it.
>
> Earlier this winter (about March) the township clerk was appointed chair of
> a 7-member committee chosen to look at the issue seriously, and see if a
> ballot initiative could be constructed in time.  The committee included the
> clerk, a member of the planning commission (a developer), 2 other
> developers, a member of the parks commission (an MSU professor in Parks and
> Rec), a member of the environmental commission (the deputy county drain
> commissioner), and me, representing the general public.
>
> We met at least bi-weekly, and occasionally more often.  Every meeting was
> open to the public (and we did have some groupies), and televised on the
> local cable station.  We also held 2 public "information sessions", where
> the public was invited to offer their opinions on everything that we were
> discussing.
>
> Included in those meetings were visits from people who had gone through what
> we were trying to do.  We brought in the folks from Peninsula Township, the
> only township (prior to us) to pass a land preservation millage in Michigan;
> we heard from the chair of the previous (unsuccessful) effort in Washtenaw
> County--both said we should spend 2 years getting this ready.  We also
> brought in the president of a foundation, a woman who is one of the most
> knowledgeable individuals in the state on land use and the political
> process.
>
> At the end of the process, we presented a final report to the township
> board, which included not only the millage recommendation, but suggestions
> about taking a look at other smart growth options, looking for ways to
> leverage the millage money and utilize other tools besides outright
> purchase, and being creative in what was to be purchased.
>
> The essence of the proposal was that the .75 mill millage would generate
> approximately $875,000 annually; the millage would exist for 10 years; a
> committee of 7 would be appointed to serve as the land preservation board
> (different backgrounds were recommended); it would focus on open space,
> including recreation and habitat corridors; PDR was a significant component
> of it, although fee acquisition was also provided for; and a percentage
> would be pulled out to endow the process, so it could continue on after 10
> years if it wasn't renewed.
>
> As to the campaign, a separate committee was formed to oversee the campaign.
> Unfortunately, it did not have the breadth and scope that the Washtenaw
> County campaign had (congratulations, Mike Garfield, on a terrific
> victory!).  It was made up of a handful of folks, who did the fundraising,
> brochure construction and distribution, and publicity.
>
> We only produced one piece of literature, largely because of limited funds.
> Liesl Bohan, a terrific graphics designer, put together what I believe was
> the most visually attractive and informative piece of campaign literature to
> land on my porch this campaign season, at a total cost of about $1,700.
> Bethany Renfer and Matt Flechter then put together literature drops using
> volunteers (we felt we couldn't afford to mail the brochures).
>
> The first lit drop took place the first Saturday of October, and we were
> able to hit about 3/4 of the township.  We were fortunate that the Okemos
> High School government teacher wanted his students to involve themselves in
> the campaign, and gave them a 5-hour involvement class assignment.  So we
> used the high school students for a lit drop to cover 1/2 the township the
> last weekend in October, and then Bethany's recruits came back the weekend
> before the election to finish the township.  We used the same piece of
> literature in all lit drops.
>
> We received invaluable assistance during the campaign from the candidates
> themselves.  Land use was the most discussed issue of the campaign, and
> because of the historic attitudinal surveys, any candidate who had any hope
> for election had to say something positive about the millage.  Because of
> that, we asked every candidate if we could use their names on our campaign
> brochure.  All but 2 candidates allowed us to do so (those 2 candidates were
> the loser of the supervisor's race, 65-35, and the last place finisher in
> the trustee race, even though he was an incumbent; I have no idea whether
> their lack of support for the millage contributed to their defeat, but it
> had to have had an effect).  So when you see our literature piece, you'll
> see that we included every significant question we had heard about why the
> township should do this, and a list of 11 candidates saying "vote yes for
> prop A".
>
> Compounding the benefit of candidate support was the way the electoral
> campaigns were run here.  Meridian Township has a weekly newspaper, as well
> as its cable station.  The newspaper conducted interviews with the
> candidates; the cable station hosted debates among the candidates for the
> different offices.  In every case, the quesion of candidate support for the
> millage came up.  Thus, the candidates were our most visible spokespeople in
> promoting the millage.
>
> There was no organized opposition, although there were a couple of opposing
> camps.  The most obvious was the anti-tax crowd.  The other, interestingly
> enough, was a land use/preservation group here in the township.  Their
> biggest concern was the historic performance of the (past) board, and their
> concern that the board would appoint its cronies to the land preservation
> board, using the millage to feather the nests of local developers.  With the
> election of the MBL, that won't be a problem.
>
> The millage passed 56-44.
>
> I'd be happy to send anyone interested in it a copy of the campaign
> brochure, which includes the most commonly asked questions, along with the
> ballot language.  I'll also be happy to send anyone a copy of the task force
> final report, the report that set the stage for the millage.  However, it's
> about 20 pages long, so ask for it only if this issue is immediate in your
> community.  I don't have them in electronic form, so send me your address
> and I'll send you a hard copy (and if you want a number of brochures--for a
> committee or group discussion, just ask--I have about 6,000 extra).
>
> And don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.  If it can pass in
> Meridian Township, I'm sure it can pass in your own community.
>
> Tom
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Tom, Anne, Nate and Pete Woiwode
> 5088 Powell Road
> Okemos, MI 48864
>
>
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