Who Decides What's Best for Manistee?
October 19th U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody,
on behalf of the Western District Court in
this summer the Manistee Saltworks Development
Corporation filed a $100 million lawsuit in federal court against the City of
April, the City's Planning Commission turned down Tondu’s
application for a special use permit to build the coal plant after a massive
community organizing effort, led by the Manistee
While the scope of Tondu's project was massive, and the public response was huge, the process by which it was rejected was normal. A landowner made a proposal; the people spoke out; the City reviewed the information; and the Planning Commissioners made the decision they felt was best for the community.
There is also a process for landowners like Tondu who disagree with a local zoning decision. State zoning law allows Tondu to appeal the City's decision to Manistee County Circuit Court, where it can be reviewed by a local judge and if the City did anything improper, the decision could be reversed or sent back.
Tondu did not
file an appeal, however. Instead,
Tondu is trying to elevate this case beyond the state court process with claims
that its federal civil rights have been violated. These claims carry a staggering price
tag: Tondu is demanding $100
million from the City of
Tondu wants more than just money, however. The lawsuit also demands a court order barring the City from enforcing its zoning rules against the development of the coal plant. In its complaint, Tondu refers to this as “interfering” with their alleged “right” to build a coal plant. And Tondu wants a jury to decide its case, a request the City has inexplicably agreed to.
Different people can have different opinions about whether Tondu should be allowed to build a coal plant in Manistee. But who do you believe should make the decision: the community and its leaders, or a federal jury sitting 150 miles away?
We hope the City will also defend its decision, but we
cannot be sure. Comments made by
some City leaders raise at least a possibility that this will not occur. Petoskey residents recently saw