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E-M:/ Rural MI zoning ordinance challenged

Title: Rural MI zoning ordinance challenged
Elmwood Ordinance Adoption Challenged
New Zoning Ordinance called Ineffective, Flawed

Greilickville, Mich. (December 20, 2002) - Papers were filed today setting in motion a process that could lead to a referendum vote on Elmwood Township's controversial new zoning ordinance.

Elmwood Township has become a battle ground between citizens and former township officials who call for long-term planning for controlled growth versus large-tract landowners who sit on the township's board and planning commission and who have systematically tried to weaken existing zoning and development regulations. The township is located in Leelanau County's southeastern corner, just north of Traverse City.

Adopted by the township board at its meeting of December 9, the ordinance would allow development across the township's 8000 acres of Agricultural/Open Space District at densities as high as one unit per acre. Current zoning in the township agriculture district is limited to 1 unit per 10 acres and clustered housing is an option.

The township board's action is the latest in a series of controversial moves aimed at allowing large-scale residential development throughout the township. The creation of the ordinance by the township planning commission under the
leadership of John Gallagher took place concurrently with three attempts to approve the ill-conceived Lincoln Meadows development. The township was consistently rejected by the Circuit Court in its attempts to issue permits
on Lincoln Meadows. Judgements by the court cited issues ranging from conflict of interest on the part of Gallagher, to the active attempt to circumvent zoning law, to contempt of court. The new zoning ordinance will guarantee that such projects can be approved in the future.

Besides objecting to the ten-fold increase in density and its consequences for traffic, demands on services, and taxes, critics of the new ordinance also cite the absence of any effort to follow the Township Master Plan's predominant themes: to channel new development into areas served by public sewer and water, and to be adjacent to existing development. Also noted were greatly weakened standards of approval for proposed special uses, and weak or non-existent environmental safeguards.

Concerning the new ordinance, former Elmwood Township Planning Commission member Erik Saxon said: "This ordinance clearly fails to deal with the issues that will face Elmwood in the next ten years. This new document is a
step backwards in terms of actively supporting our community's goals as detailed in the master plan and in spelling out government's responsibilities to citizens. Giving voters a direct voice is the best way to show township officials that voters in Elmwood really care about growth issues."

Organizers say the collection of petition signatures will begin immediately. In an earlier effort, the required number of signatures was easily collected as a part of a successful initiative to stop the township from improperly instituting zoning ordinance amendments.


Steve VanZoeren 933-0093
Erik Saxon 929-0979

Save Open Space/Elmwood