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E-M:/ RE: / Changes to Annexation Laws good or bad idea?



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>
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Andrew:  

I am a very strong supporter of regionalizing land use decision-making,
but annexation in my experience has been primarily a tool used by
developers seeking to confound and destroy rational land use planning
efforts by townships.  There needs to be a better way to do the job that
the axe that annexation swings, or the evil step brothers embodied in
the "contracts" struck between cities and townships to try to avoid out
and out annexation (425 agreements, etc).

The examples in the Lansing/East Lansing area a rampant as to why
annexation is a poor tool.  The most egregious occurred in the last
couple of years when a golf course owner sought a special use permit
allegedly to allow a caretaker to live on the premises, a golf course in
Meridian Twp that bordered the city of East Lansing. The owner's nephew,
a 19 year old student at MSU, moved onto the property, and even before
an occupancy certificate had been issued for the property, submitted a
petition for annexation of this property to East Lansing, now that it
had exactly ONE resident, the owner's nephew, living on it.  The reason:
even without ever having applied for rezoning or other permission to
develop the land, this owner concluded that he would not get what he
wanted from Meridian Twp, so wanted to go with East Lansing, which he
thought would allow him to do what he wants.  In this case and others,
Meridian Twp is trying to work with East Lansing to assure that
developers don't use annexation to confound sound management plans.

This is one of the laws I tend to put into the "perverse incentive"
category of land use laws in Michigan.  There HAS to be a better way to
encourage regionalization, but there also HAS to be a way to stop
undercutting sound planning and zoning efforts in communities through
annexation.

Anne Woiwode 



The Detroit Free Press recently endorsed proposed
changes to annexation laws in Michigan:

http://www.freep.com/voices/editorials/eannex31_20030531.htm

This has been a long time goal of Townships who view
the current laws as biased against them. Also, recent
cases, like the annexation of land to Pontiac from
Bloomfield Township to avoid the Township's zoning
requirements have added fuel to the fire. The Free
Press also stated that these changes might lead to
better land use patterns.

However, I'm concerned that the opposite might happen.
First, it's clear that the changes to the law will
effectively end annexations in Michigan. For example,
future annexations will require the separate approval
of voters of the annexing city, the area to be annexed
and the Township from which land will be annexed. That
means that a single voter in the area to be annexed
could defeat a proposal that is supported by both the
City and Township. In cities like Ann Arbor, where
there are Township islands completely surrounded by
the City, those Township residents will be able to
enjoy all of the amenities of living in the City
without contributing to the cost of those services and
the City will have no ability to annex those
properties. Even if the residents approve the
annexation, the remainder of the Township could block
the annexation even though in some cases, like in Ann
Arbor, the border with the remainder of the Township
is miles away. In Novi, Novi Township provides a
mini-Monaco tax shelter for 150 residents who enjoy
all of the benefits of living in the City while paying
much lower taxes. The Township provides no services of
its own and provides nothing to the greater community.


While cases like the Bloomfield Township case get the
most press, most annexations take place in areas where
one central city or village is growing into
surrounding area. In many cases, annexation represent
the natural extension of urban services and the
central city or village is best positioned to provide
those services. In the future, there will be no
incentive for cities and villages to extend those
services to surrounding communities if they can not
get the benefits that come with development. That will
force those Townships to develop urban infrastructure
and services even though most of the Townships
residents won't need those services. That could lead
to increased taxes which would then lead to
development pressures on farmers and other large
landholders. In the long run, we may see more
urbanization and weaker cities and villages.

Andrew Mutch
Novi





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