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E-M:/ Good lawsuit wins in Meridian Township

Enviro-Mich message from "Your Name" <woiwode@voyager.net>


Two important lawsuits have been resolved within the last 10 days 
regarding land use issues in Meridian Township, east of East Lansing 
in Ingham County.  The first is a Michigan Court of Appeals decision 
that upholds the validity of a zoning referendum that overturned a 
zoning decision of the Township Board which served from 1996-2000. A 
press release from the Township is below, and I am very proud that the 
current Township Board defended not only the soundness of the land use 
decision, but also the right of the citizens to use referenda to hold 
their elected officials accountable for land use decisions. The 
decision was 2-1 and these can be found on the Court of Appeals 
website at: 


The second case involves a challenge to the Meridian Township wetlands 
setback ordinance, which the MI Supreme Court declined to hear, 
upholding the Appeals Court decision supporting the Township again.  
The press release on this case is also below.  Please let me know if 
you would like more information about these cases.

Anne Woiwode
Meridian Twp. Trustee

For Immediate Release:
October 22, 2004

The Michigan Court of Appeals this week sided with Meridian Township 
in rejecting a lower court?s ruling on a voters? referendum regarding 
the Newman Equities property near Central Park Drive. 

In its Oct. 21 opinion, the three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of 
Appeals, concluded that the Ingham County Circuit Court  had ?erred in 
reversing the voters? decision? when it agreed with Newman Equities, 
owners of the property, that the voter referendum was invalid.

?This decision upholds the residents? right to have a say in the 
zoning of their communities everywhere in Michigan, not just here in 
Meridian Township,? says Meridian Township Trustee Anne Woiwode. ?Our 
residents voted five years ago to keep this property residential and 
the courts agreed with them.?

In concluding that the Ingham County Circuit Court had erred, the 
higher court also wrote that ?there is at least a legitimate 
difference of opinion whether residential zoning on the subject 
parcels is appropriate, meaning that the voters decision was not 
unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious.?

The 40-acre parcel is located between Powell Road and Central Park 
Drive.  In 1999, the previous Meridian Township Board had rezoned the 
land from residential to commercial development upon request of Newman 

Concerned about increased commercial growth and traffic, Meridian 
Township residents launched a petition drive?led by Woiwode and 
Patricia Hagen, a former Meridian Township Planning Commission chair ?
that sought to put the question on a ballot. Voters overturned the 
township board?s decision by 3,553 to 2,084?a decision that would keep 
the land residential.

Calling the decision a ?victory for township residents,? Meridian 
Township Trustee Julie Brixie noted that some have criticized the 
township board for defending itself in development disputes. ?There 
are times when it?s important to fight for our principles.?

She also emphasized that the ruling could serve to help the Okemos 
School District, which has been facing declining enrollment. ?When 
this is developed as residential property, the district will benefit 
because it will help generate more students for its schools.?

The township?s pursuit of a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals 
was also hailed by the Michigan Townships Association. ?We want to 
thank Meridian Township for its excellent presentation of issues in 
this case that are of state-wide importance to local governments 
throughout Michigan,? said MTA Executive Director Larry Merrill.

?The Michigan Court of Appeals has clarified that it will not attempt 
to thwart the will of local citizens to determine their communities' 
land use character when there is a reasonable basis for a decision 
arrived at through the referendum process," he added.

# # # # #

For Immediate Release:
October 27, 2004

Court Upholds Meridian Environmental Protection Ordinance 

The Michigan Supreme Court?s recent refusal to consider further 
appeals has effectively ended a long standing challenge to one of 
Meridian Township?s environmental protection ordinances.  

Forsberg Family LLC had sued Meridian Township over the 
constitutionality of the Township?s water features setback ordinance.  
The developer had requested a variance to construct a parking lot and 
road without providing a required 20? setback from the edge of a 
wetland on the site.  The Township denied the variance.  

The Township won the case in both the Circuit Court and the Court of 
Appeals.  With the Supreme Court?s latest order the developer, 
Forsberg Family LLC., has unsuccessfully exhausted the appeals process 
against Meridian Township.  

The validity of the Township?s water features setback ordinance was 
upheld by the courts in Forsberg v. Meridian Township.  Calling the 
courts rulings a ?victory for the environment? Township Trustee Julie 
Brixie states ?The courts agree that Meridian Township has a right to 
preserve and protect our valuable natural resources?.

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