ELECTION 2016: Maura Sanders Q&A, Candidate for Trustee, Peninsula Township

"I believe that the public has a voice."

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Maura Sanders | Jane Boursaw PhotoThe Primary Election will take place on August 2, 2016 in Peninsula Township, Grand Traverse County. Following is a Q&A with Maura Sanders, candidate for Peninsula Township Trustee.

Click here for links to Q&As with all the candidates who’ve responded to our request. To print this Q&A, click the printer icon at the top of this post. To download a sample ballot for Peninsula Township, click here.

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(Editor’s Note: Current Township Supervisor, Pete Correia, did not respond to our request for a Q&A).

Why are you running for the position of Township Trustee for Peninsula Township, and what qualifications will you bring to the role?

Our Township needs strong community involvement, open communication, dedicated leadership and transparency. I bring all of these qualities to this role, as demonstrated while serving as the Chairwoman of the Peninsula Township Park Commission.

What is your vision for Peninsula Township in 10, 20, 50 years? Do you support maintaining the rural character of the Old Mission Peninsula?

YES, I support maintaining the rural character of Old Mission Peninsula. It is the reason my husband and I chose Old Mission after military retirement. This is a special and unique place that needs to be preserved in both character and rural charm, along with conscientiously balanced development. My vision for the future is maintaining the special characteristics we have (agriculture, historic preservation, park land and the natural environment) while allowing for development that follows the zoning ordinances dictated by the Master Plan, for both development and/or re-development.

Do you support large scale developments such as “The 81,” a development bordering Boursaw Road that includes 41 home sites and up to 40 boat slips in East Bay? Why or why not?

I support developments that are within the parameters of our zoning ordinances and guided by the Master Plan. However, more than anything, I strongly support and demand that all prep work, site surveys, environmental surveys, and bordering neighbor surveys are both mandatory and strongly enforced.

Much controversy is currently surrounding the Peninsula Fire Department, including resignations from the Fire Board, unionization of the fire department, discussion about the sale of fire equipment (including the Safe Boat), and discussion about the fire department being absorbed into Traverse City, with Peninsula Township contracting for those services. Do you support maintaining a strong and independent fire department in Peninsula Township? Why or why not? If yes, what steps will you take to ensure that?

I very much support maintaining a strong and independent fire department in Peninsula Township. Our fire department is part of our community and critical for our safety on the Peninsula. They are the first to respond when there is an emergency, and being that I live at the very end of the Peninsula, I trust that they will be here when I need them most.  They deserve our respect and support. We are a community bordering on another community, Traverse City. When Traverse City needs help, we help them; when we need help, they help us. There is no need for absorption to even be a discussion point without the input of our township residents.

TCAPS has recommended closing Old Mission Peninsula School (OMPS) at the end of the 2018 school year, with Old Mission children attending Eastern Elementary School going forward. This would also necessitate the Peninsula Community Library finding a new home. However, an anonymous Old Mission Peninsula resident has pledged $800,000+ to help keep OMPS open. Do you support keeping OMPS open? Why or why not?

I support a community school on Old Mission Peninsula. Being that our school is part of a very large school district, we are at the mercy of a School Board vote. I encourage the School Board to better understand the concern and position of Township residents, communicated via our Township Leadership. This communication should be coming from the discussions, letters and or public comment offered by our residents. I believe that our community school should not be kept open only to have our closest neighboring school, Eastern Elementary, closed. I have been an Eastern Elementary parent for the past three years. There are many Eastern families that reside within Peninsula Township. This is a very special opportunity for an entire community to come together and brainstorm options to keep our school and library intact.

A Bowers Harbor Park expansion is currently in the works, with a committee meeting regularly to move this project forward. What is your vision for this expansion? Would you like to see a more family-friendly park, with new play structures? Or would you rather see a more passive park, with additional walking trails and improvements to the current play structures?

I may be partial to this question as I am the current Chair of the Park Commission. I would like to see the expansion park improved as a passive park. I believe that the current Bowers Harbor Park is an outstanding property to recreate for all ages. I firmly believe in, and the Park Commission is working towards drafting, a 5/10 year plan. This plan, inclusive of public input, will be drafted by the committee (committee lead already appointed by the Park Commission) and will focus on new playground equipment at the current park along with other necessary updates.

How would you engage Peninsula Township residents in the decision-making process at the Township level? How will you ensure community transparency in finances, meetings and decisions?

I believe that the public has a voice. Outside of surveying for public input on many different improvement and long-range topics, the residents are entitled to know what is going on at the Township level. A quarterly newsletter is one very obvious avenue to deliver news. Another format is the welcoming of public input at both meetings and via mail, email and/or office visits. Transparency is a major factor in all forms of government.  It is our responsibility, as elected officials, to provide the maximum amount of reporting back to our citizens. Our meeting minutes, for all Township meetings, need to be clearly detailed and inclusive of all discussion and comments that transpired during a public meeting.

Anything else you’d like to convey to residents of Peninsula Township?

I will listen and respond. When elected to a position, it is by the vote of the people.  Everyone, regardless of who they voted for, deserves to be listened to, offered time and attention to verbalize their concerns, and ultimately, they deserve the respect of a response.

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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