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E-M:/ Annexation Legislation

Enviro-Mich message from Smileysmlc@aol.com

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Southeast Michigan Land 
Conservancy, the following was written by SMLC Board member Sandi Lopez.  
Questions or comments may be directed to Sandi at  sandiclopez@hotmail.com. 

Jack Smiley, President
Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy
- - - - - - - - - - - - - 

The Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy does not usually take a position on 
upcoming legislation, and in no case do we ever take a position on political 
issues or candidates.  In this case, we are pointing out upcoming 
legislation, discussing the legislation, and asking our members and other 
concerned citizens to contact their representatives to voice their opinions.  
By virtue of our devotion to protecting Southeast Michigan's remaining open 
spaces, we are providing the following information for your consideration.  
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the legislation by the 
end of the month.  If it does not pass, a particular form of haphazard 
development will continue to threaten our rapidly diminishing open spaces.

Under current law, a city (or other municipality) may annex land from a 
township if a property owner asks it to do so.  The property owners asking 
for annexation are often builders who own tens to hundreds of acres they wish 
to develop.  In many cases, the requests have been made after they have had 
their development proposals rejected by a township.  The proposals may have 
been rejected because they do not fit within a township's master plan or 
zoning ordinances, or because of citizen opposition.  According to the 
Association of Home Builders, which opposes the legislation, ninety percent 
of all annexations in Michigan involve vacant land proposed for new home 
construction.  Some of the fiercest battles over annexation, however, have 
not involved home construction, they have involved commercial development of 
formerly agricultural or open land.  Examples in Macomb County include 
Richmond's annexation of a portion of Lenox Township and Mount Clemens’ 
annexation of a portion of Harrison Township, both of which are now 
commercial areas.  An example in Oakland County is Pontiac's attempt to annex 
a portion of Bloomfield Township after the township denied a commercial 
development plan that would include a high rise on 80 acres.  In Washtenaw 
County, a developer has threatened to have his hundreds of acres of 
agricultural land annexed by Ypsilanti if Superior Township does not agree to 
a “new urban development.”  In all of the cases above, the land was annexed 
solely upon the request of the developer, who owned all of the land that was 

The legislation (HB 4720-25) pending in the Michigan House of Representatives 
would revise the process by which one municipality annexes a portion of 
another municipality, making the process consistent throughout the state.  It 
requires a 45-day written notice of intent before an annexation petition 
could be filed with the State, and it forces cities/villages and townships to 
negotiate in good faith during that 45-day notice period.  Failure to 
negotiate in good faith by a township could 
result in a township losing its right to challenge the annexation.  It does 
allow property owned by a city within a neighboring township to be annexed 
without State approval if it is used for a public purpose.  Perhaps most 
importantly, an automatic three-way vote would be required before any land 
could be annexed. 

The annexation would have to be approved by a simple majority of the voters 
of the city/township annexing the land, the owner(s) of the land being 
annexed, and the township having its land annexed.  Currently, the law 
prevents citizens from challenging an approved annexation in areas where 100 
or fewer people live.  That means open or agricultural land can be annexed by 
a neighboring city, and a township cannot fight the annexation.   

Additionally, under current law, a township losing land cannot challenge that 
loss, if the property owners vote for the annexation.  If only one company or 
person owns all of the land, no one but that one landholder has a say in 
whether or not the township will lose its land.

Annexation presents serious problems for townships.  It results in the loss 
of a tax base, the potential loss of infrastructure after the township has 
invested the residents' tax dollars to install it, higher taxes for residents 
being annexed, increased tension between cities and townships, and the loss 
of the residents' right to determine the quality of their community.

In the case of Pontiac wanting to annex parts of Bloomfield Township, and in 
the case of several other annexation battles being fought in Michigan, there 
is plenty of land in the city that developers could redevelop, rather than 
putting a series of high-rise buildings in a suburban area.  Revitalizing our 
cities by moving commerce into the city is a much more successful strategy 
than continuing to flee the city.  Urban sprawl, which is further exacerbated 
by such annexations, is not good for Michigan.  The populations of cities 
like Detroit and Pontiac have fallen not because they are denied the right to 
take property from their neighboring townships.  One of the main 
reasons for urban decline is the fact that commerce and industry are fleeing 
the existing cities for the remaining open spaces, or greenfields, where they 
are now attempting to build “new urban complexes”.  The state of Michigan has 
programs in place to assist with brownfield development in urban areas.  
Developers would be well advised to participate in those programs, rather 
than annexing and developing open spaces.

Text and analysis of the bills is located at 
http://www.michiganlegislature.org/find.asp.  We urge all of you to contact 
your Representatives and your Senators and support this legislation.

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