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Re: SG-W:/ anti-rezoning strategies needed



Susan,

There are two strategies you need to develop when
generating opposition to a rezoning. The first needs
to be directed towards the "political" considerations
that help keep Township Board members focused on what
is important. The second needs to focus on the legal
arguments why the Township shouldn't rezone the
property.

It's important that the opposition get informed and
get organized. It's important that when citizens speak
to the Board, they are presenting a consistent
message.  That's why you should formulate a message
and then get different people to speak on the various
points. That way, the Board hears all of the arguments
without being diverted by unnecessary issues. You
don't want a lot of people going over-and-over the
same points. That gets tedious and distracting. It's
better to have  fewer people speak with a clear
message and some indication of support, like a
petition or attendance, than to have 100 people say
the same thing again and again.  While everyone
doesn't need to speak, the more people you can get in
attendance, the more the Board will pay attention.
Letters sent in advance are also effective and again,
if they present a consistent but personalized message,
all the better. If you can get the School District's
support, that helps too. It doesn't hurt to ask. They
may not want to get involved but sometimes they do.
Finally, I know that in Cities, surrounding landowners
can file a protest petition against rezonings that
force a supermajority vote to get the rezoning
approved. I'm not sure if there is a similar provision
in Township law. If so, see if the surrounding
landowners can force that kind of vote.

As far as the legal arguments go, it's important that
you do as much research as possible. It's also
important that you stay focused on the issues that the
Board can legally consider. Often times, these debates
denigrate into trashing mobile home parks and the
people who live there. Developers love this because
they can then take that into Court and point to it as
evidence that the Township and residents are
discriminating against the parks. Above all else, you
need to make sure that your group, your supporters,
other residents and the Board don't get into
discussions about anything that might be construed as
denigrating the nature of these parks. This includes
issues like:

* Kind of people who live in MH parks
* Crime coming from MH parks
* Nature of housing and housing style in MH parks
* Effect of MH parks on surrounding areas in terms of
lowering property values, littering, etc. 

I'm not saying that these are not relevant issues,
especially if the current MH park has been a bad
neighbor. But legally, they are not going to be issues
that a Board could legally consider for a rezoning and
they are going to be issues that developers are going
to pounce on in Court as signs of discrimination
against the MH proposal. Don't give the developers
ammunition to use against you! Plus, there are many
more issues to discuss that can address these problems
in another way without getting into those taboo
subjects.

Start with the Township Master Plan. Is the MHP
contrary to the Master Plan? If so, document that.
Does the Master Plan provide alternative locations for
MHPs? If so, show where those are located and explain
why they are better. If not, you need to show why the
current MHP meets the needs for this kind of housing
in the Township. There's a myth that State Law says
all Townships must allow MHPs. That's not what the law
says. But Courts will look not look kindly at
Townships that can't justify why they don't allow MHPs
anywhere or why there isn't a need for additional
MHPs. You can justify your case by looking at the
Township population 
and showing that the need is met by the current MHP.
Also, document MHPs and other affordable housing
developments in surrouding communities that might meet
the need. If you can show that the MHPs already
provide housing for some percentage of the existing
population, you have a better case that more are not
needed. 

Next, show how the change in zoning would impact
surrounding properties. If it would imcompatible with
those properties, demonstrate how. You also need to
dosome comparitive impacts. Show how much more traffic
would be generated by the expansion versus the Master
Plan and current zoning. Do the same for public
services, like additional police and fire personnel.
Also explore any environmental impacts that will come
from the development. If the current or future zonings
would be more environmentally friendly in protecting
trees, wetlands and streams, show that too. Show how
the development will impact the need for sewer and
water services, if those are publically available or
if the private system will have an impact. Finally,
show the economic impact in terms of tax revenue as it
affects the Township and the schools. This is a touchy
area and you need to stay focused on how the revenues
don't meet the need for the services that are
generated. Don't get into a debate on how much more
homes that would be developed under the current zoning
would exceed the value of mobile homes. Just show that
the development doesn't pay for itself in terms of the
demands it creates on the Township. 

These are difficult cases and MH developers are quick
to litigate because the law is tilted in their favor
and rural Townships often don't have the resources to
get into big lawsuits. That's why it is important that
the Board know that they have the support of the
community. It is also why it is important to develop a
strong legal case against the rezoning. The planners
should do this but they don't always do and effective
job of that. The stronger the case that you can make,
the less likely the developers are going to pursue a
lawsuit. 

Also, don't be surprised if they bring up the Novi
lawsuit that resulted in the massive judgment against
the City. That's a canard. There's absolutely no legal
connection between that case and the proposed
rezoning. Developers just like to trot that out and
use it to scare communities into approving
developments. So if someone brings that up, call them
on it and force them to show the similarities. The
Novi case involved a development that was already
approved and was under development. A developer can
not threaten to sue for damages like that when a
property has not even been approved for rezoning. But
they'll say pretty much anything to get Boards to
approve rezonings. I even saw in one community where a
developer used a court case that the MH developer lost
at the Supreme Court and claimed that the developer
won and the community had to approve his rezoning. 

Good luck!

Andrew Mutch
Novi




--- Susan Miller <smiller179@comcast.net> wrote:
> I am seeking to organize opposition to a petition by
> Ann Arbor Land Group to
> develop 47 acres of land on the east side of Wagner
> Rd. in Lodi Township
> from agricultural to Mobile Home Park for the
> purpose of expanding greatly
> the existing Orchard Grove Park.  The Lodi Planning
> Board has already
> recommended unanimously that the rezoning be denied
> (on multiple grounds),
> but the Lodi Township Board has not yet ruled
> (meeting is December 3) and
> has come under pressure already from the developers
> who threaten to sue the
> Township if rezoning is denied.  Many citizens were
> present at the planning
> commission meeting.  Public sentiment against the
> rezoning was strong and
> vocal.  No one spoke in favor of the rezoning, which
> involves land slated
> for "rural residential" development in the Lodi
> master plan.  The community
> had a multitude of concerns including natural
> features destruction, poor
> waste control (bringing odor problems), increased
> traffic on Waters Road,
> increased burden on township and school district
> resources, crime at the
> existing Orchard Grove park, property value, and
> littering of adjacent
> properties.
> 
> I am looking for ideas about how to communicate most
> powerfully to the Board
> before their vote.  Letters have been sent and will
> continue to be sent to
> the Board and the media, and citizens will speak up
> at the meeting, but is
> there any other approach to the Board that should be
> considered?  For
> example, I have wondered whether the Ann Arbor
> School Board might have an
> interest in this development since it would add many
> students to the schools
> but would not bring in school taxes (mobile home
> park residents don't pay
> property tax on their dwellings).  Perhaps there are
> other strategies that I
> have not considered.
> 
> All input will be greatly appreciated.  Susan Miller
> 
> 
> 
> 
>
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smartgrowth-washtenaw:  Internet List and Forum for issues relating to
sprawl, smart growth, and preservation of the quality of life in Washtenaw
County.

Postings to:  smartgrowth-washtenaw@great-lakes.net      For info, send
email to majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info
smartgrowth-washtenaw"
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