The Primary Election will take place on August 2, 2016 in Peninsula Township, Grand Traverse County. Following is a Q&A with Rob Manigold, candidate for Peninsula Township Supervisor.
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 Supervisor for Peninsula Township, and what qualifications will you bring to the role?
I am a 4th generation cherry farmer on the Old Mission Peninsula. I had the honor of being elected your Township Supervisor from 1988 to 2013, when I retired mid-term because of pressing needs related to my family and our farm. Next to my family, the most important thing to me is this community. I am passionate about getting back into office and making a difference, especially when I see what is going on now and see that we are headed in the wrong direction.
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science from Central Michigan University, 20 years on the Grand Traverse County Board of Public Works, previous chair for BATA, Previous chair for Grand Traverse County Solid Waste Committee, Vice President of Grand Traverse Fruit Growers Council, Board Member of Grand Traverse County Farmland Preservation Committee, Volunteer at Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, and 25 years as Peninsula Township Supervisor.
What is your vision for Peninsula Township in 10, 20, 50 years? Do you support maintaining the rural character of the Old Mission Peninsula?
The rural character, clean water and scenic views are the reasons we all live in this paradise. Over the last 25 years, residents have developed a strong Master Plan and zoning ordinances to protect the quality of life here that we have all come to enjoy. They must be followed. We were the first small unit of government in the United States to implement a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program funded by property tax revenue that a large majority of residents supported. The PDR program has protected more than 6,000 acres in perpetuity, and many of those easements capture and protect the scenic views forever. Without the PDR Program, coming home from town would not be the same. I don’t want to imagine what going over Underwood Hill or stopping at the Scenic Turnout near Chateau Grand Traverse would look like. The job is not over; we still have work to do as a community. We also need to commend The Old Mission Peninsula Historical Society, Peter Dougherty Society, and the Lighthouse group for their timeless endeavors.
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?
As a farmer, I am a strong property rights advocate and believe a person has the right to develop their property in accordance with the Master Plan and zoning ordinances. “The 81 Project” was handled poorly by the Town Board. When our own residents sue us for not following our Master Plan and zoning ordinances, we have real problems. It is not fair to our taxpayers paying the legal bills, nor to the developer. I would not have passed “The 81” with multiple contingencies. I would have opened up a dialogue between the developer and the community to try and find the common ground, worked with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy to place a conservation easement on the agricultural component, and developed a funding source to help the developer work to meet his business plan while reducing the number of houses.
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?
When I retired in 2013, our Fire and Rescue Department was the envy of the community, and we accomplished that on a fiscally responsible budget. Now who knows?! It is costing taxpayers more, almost all the Fire Board resigned, and the fire fighters are unionizing. Firemen don’t resign or unionize unless they are bullied or fed up with the leadership.
I support the independence of the Peninsula Township Fire Department. The current Fire personnel have told me that several local residents have approached the Fire Department to join but have been denied because the money isn’t in the budget. If I ever have to call the Fire Department for an emergency, I want someone who knows where Peninsula Drive is located, not have to look for it on GPS. Support your remaining fire staff. They need our help.
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?
As a community, we must do everything in our power to keep our Elementary School and Peninsula Community Library strong. With a pledge of $800,000, that may help us buy some more time, but the problem is at the District School level. All elementary schools, including Old Mission, must work together to resolve this funding issue. It is crazy to bus little children great distances from their homes.
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?
Because of the extensive wetlands and other site challenges, the Bowers Harbor Park expansion should be developed as a Passive Natural Area. A great concept plan has been developed that includes walking trails and scenic areas, and this concept fits the neighborhood. Keep the play structure, ball fields and other high use areas in the existing park where people are used to noise and traffic.
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?
The obvious answer is to reinstate the Peninsula Township Newsletter, which previously was a quality source of information that allowed residents to know what was going on in the Township. At public meetings, residents will be encouraged to speak and participate, not the current format being followed. Residents’ opinions are important in the decision-making process.
Anything else you’d like to convey to residents of Peninsula Township?
It would be an honor to serve as your Peninsula Township Supervisor for the next four years. I have the experience and passion to REBUILD OUR COMMUNITY.
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 like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like 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 of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my 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 Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb