Cherry Blossoms near the Hogsback on Center Road/M37 | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Blossoms near the Hogsback on Center Road/M37 | Jane Boursaw Photo

Something is rotten in the state of Peninsula Township (apologies to Shakespeare). A recent event on the Peninsula underscores what I believe is a trend to have the Peninsula become more like a police state than an easygoing neighborly place to live.

What we have created is a system where we allow one or more Township officials to show up on your doorstep with or without police escort to demand that you stop doing some unverified action that they deem is a violation of a zoning ordinance.

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These Gestapo-like tactics have to stop. Besides, don’t our law enforcement people have better things to do than traipse around with the zoning people to serve a notice of infraction of a flag in the right-of-way?

Just so you know, the other so-called infractions in this instance turned out to be not infractions after all – a home camper parked in the owner’s backyard and his motorcycle for sale in his front yard.

Since when did the practice of sending a letter politely pointing out that there may be an infraction of a zoning ordinance and asking the person for a response or correction end?

As of now, this person has seven days to respond. While I believe that in some instances this may be insufficient time for action or a response, I will take that. Please note that the Township zoning officials recently proposed changing that to zero days of notice. Imagine that! Another sign of a police state mentality – first take away your due process rights and then, if desired on the whim of the zoning folks, bring in the police. This is serious.

Another example of the police state mentality is the offer by the Township attorney to provide free of charge to the Township access to the Stasi-like spy organization that spies on people who are offering a room in their house for rent on the Peninsula. Do you think this is right? I do not.

So what do I think should be done? First of all, we should eliminate the position of zoning enforcement officer. Our Township is a bloated one already, and do we need two people doing this job? Barring that, this position should be limited to investigating real complaints on a purely part-time basis. It should not provide for free rein to drive around the Peninsula in search of infractions. Next, we will probably be offering rewards for people to turn their neighbors in.

Second, a Township Board member should not serve in any paid capacity, period. This is a serious conflict of interest on many scores. He should be required to recuse himself from any consideration of a zoning issue that comes before the Township Board. Can our Board truly ride herd on one of their co-board members? Can they really fairly evaluate his performance when it comes to complaints or his salary? This needs to change. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

Finally, there needs to be rules set by the Board with regard to the issue of how a citizen is informed of a violation. It should be done by a letter or a phone call first. Then, depending on the response, they need to decide what action is necessary, and all this needs to be spelled out in rules set by the Board and made known to the public.

I plan on asking the Township Board to do the above at their regularly-scheduled meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, June 8, 7 p.m., Township Hall). I think you should let the Township know that you do not condone this action.

(Got something to say? Email Opinion pieces to Gazette Editor Jane Boursaw, [email protected].)

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17 COMMENTS

  1. I think enforcement is selective as well. Unless something has changed. Someone showed up at my house while I was there receiving invited guest to make sure I wasn’t renting my house. Later, I inquired (reported) on the available rentals on Airbnb. Seems the one on Bluff Road is a-o-k. Why is this? I was told the owner was very cooperative. This was mentioned twice in an email. So what. Is it a rule or not? My guess the house owner is related to the right person or something. Why does he get a free pass while my guest and I get an unwarranted visit.

    • I am still wonderful BG what rights they have to approach my property investigating anything, such as peeking in windows, speaking with our guests or flying drones overhead to spy in and around our homes. Isn’t this illegal and called trespassing? Maybe even a peeping Tom or Dave! An emergency situation where there is a present danger could require a call then a knock on my door. Otherwise it seems a certified letter would be the proper route of that there is proof of service of said and alleged violation.

  2. I think the township board should stay out of peoples business unless they are doing something harmful to others or it is truly illegal. Having a camper in your backyard is hardly a hindrance to anyone. Simply ridiculous!

  3. Louis Santucci I respect your freedom to express your views but but not your choice of words. They are inflammatory and exaggerated. Equating what is happening on OMP with and “Gestapo-like tactics” and “Stasi-like” practices is ridiculous.

  4. As are you entitled to your opinion. So you think bringing police to your front door is ok when you have done nothing criminally wrong is ok?
    Hiring a company to spy on people I guess is ok fo some but not me. The only thing ridiculous here is people who complacently sit by while your right to privacy is invaded and your right to due process is trampled on.

  5. One question here is do you think a sheriff’s department officer should be taking time out from his duties to accompany something as trivial as delivering a notice of an infraction?
    I know the post office is slow these days but certainly this could have been done via the US mail.
    Since when is it customary for minor non criminal business of the township be done with the police in tow?
    Next maybe your tax bill will be delivered via the treasurer and the sheriff like in Robin Hood’s days.

  6. I appreciate your opinion. No, I do not think bringing police to your front door for minor infractions is okay. I did not say that. I am just respectfully requesting that you do not equate this treatment to Gestapo-like or Stasi-like tactics. Right to privacy and due process is essential–agreed. I am objecting to your choice of words. Gestapo-like tactics, I think, in most people’s terms, equate to brutal, violent actions.

      • Thank you, Louis. I appreciate you having an open ear. It is a heated subject. We have had some difficult interactions with the Township over the years so I understand. All have been resolved positively in the long run. I agree this recent situation seems to have been handled poorly and police involvement seems overdone. Policies need to change and you seem dedicated to making that happen. I appreciate your action.

  7. I agree with Molly in that the use of words like Gestapo and police state in Mr. Santucci’s latest opinion piece are inflammatory and don’t add much to a spirit of communication toward consensus. The outrage and mean-spiritedness just doesn’t stop, does it and with no good reason contributing community uneasiness. Words DO matter! Additionally, while I have NO idea if the following factor was in play when the sheriff accompanied the violation -delivering government personnel in the recent interaction BUT I do not find it unusual to have law enforcement be asked to come along if there are concerns that discussions might get heated or aggressive. Pretty much SOP for social workers and home care nurses all over the country. And I believe if you follow Next Door, the person complaining about this recent sign violation event stated the deputy was apparently a calming influence which has so much value. Maybe you can stop by PCL and ask the librarians to give you books on what police states and the Gestapo are really like.

    • Thank you for the suggestion, I live across the street from the library so it is an easy trip for me. I am a student of the second world war so I am well aware of what the gestapo and a police state are like.
      The point of the opinion piece was first and foremost to grab the attention of the many complacent people out here who do not take part in the civic goings on in the township.The second reason was that I believe use of the police force should be utilised in only the most unusual circumstances. We have seen too often what happens when the use of police force provokes unnecessary tragic responses. And besides if we start with a written notice sent by mail that is a first step in setting a more polite way to approach this. Let’s get real here what are these infractions? For the most part they are neither dangerous or in need of immediate remedy. Sending an armed officer to your door sends quite a different signal than just handling this by letter or phone. Since my piece appeared I have had several calls from people who expressed support for the idea that there needs to be clear rules about engagement and others who also felt that their experience with the zoning personnel was less than a courteous one.
      So if some good can come out of this, the opinion piece served its purpose. At least twenty people showed up last night and the discourse was civil and thoughtful.
      Also at last night’s meeting Rob committed to develop protocols on what the rules should be going forward with regard to zoning notices of infractions.
      I will be putting forth my ideas as should anyone else who feels there needs to be clear rules to be followed. For example, why shouldn’t every infraction notice start out by mail. What are the rules when an armed police officer needs to be sent to someone’s home. Who will approve that decision and what are the criteria? I can think of many others.

      I am hopeful the board will address this in a serious manner. Finally, I still believe that despite the township’s lawyer ‘s opinion that there is no violation of the conflict of interest rules or the Michigan Incompatible Public Offices Act, I believe it is not good government and I can scarcely imagine a more clearer ethical conflict.

      • So refreshing to hear you less combative tone ! It makes it easier to listen to what you say and not shut you out. We lose so much when one tries to “grab the attention” of less civic participating people by sensationalism, name calling and pot stirring. There has always been a process for heated matters to be addressed in Township meetings and a process for the formation and enforcement of laws and ordinances. We always, always can have a say. I too have had both positive and negative interactions with Township personnel and here’s the thing: they always demonstrated that they listened objectively to me even if I didn’t agree or like what they had to say. Word matter and always trust the process. Starting off your quest for justice is lessened by bullying or sensational postings.

  8. The point of the opinion piece was  first and foremost to grab the attention of the many complacent people out here who do not take part in the civic goings on in the township.The second reason was that I believe use of the police force should be  utilised in only the most unusual circumstances. We have seen too often what happens when the use of police force provokes unnecessary  tragic responses. And besides if we start with a written notice  sent by mail that is a first step in setting a more polite way to approach this. Let’s get real here what are these infractions?  For the most part they are neither dangerous or in need of immediate remedy. Sending an armed officer to your door sends quite a different signal than just handling this by letter or phone. Since my piece appeared I have had several calls from people who expressed support for the idea that there needs to be clear rules about engagement and  others who also felt that their experience with the zoning personnel was less than a courteous one.So if some good can come out of this,  the opinion piece served its purpose. At least twenty people showed up last night and the discourse was civil and thoughtful.Also at last night’s meeting Rob committed to develop protocols on what the rules should be going forward with regard to zoning notices of infractions.I will be putting forth my ideas as should anyone else who feels there needs to be clear rules to be followed. For example, why shouldn’t every infraction notice start out  by mail. What are the rules when an armed police officer needs to be sent to someone’s home. Who will approve that decision and what are the criteria? I can think of many others.
    I am hopeful the board will address this in a serious manner.  Finally, I still believe that despite the township’s lawyer ‘s opinion that there is no violation of the conflict of interest rules or the Michigan Incompatible Public Offices Act, I believe it is not good government and I can scarcely imagine a more clearer ethical conflict. 

  9. Can we all be civil here? It is probably true that some ordinances need to be modified, or more considerately and rationally enforced (that issue several years back when lighthouse restoration workers were forced to lodge in town instead of their campers out there comes to mind). But it’s important to keep in mind that almost everywhere, a zoning enforcement officer job (a critical position in local government, BTW) is controversial. My mother had been a well-known and loved KG teacher in our small downstate township, but when she later accepted a job as Zoning officer, property owners would meet her with shotguns! I also have a hard time believing that Mr. Santucci has no familiarity with the standard realities of living in a typical Detroit suburb, for instance. When “Mrs. Kravitz” lived on my street (Detroit metro area), the police were sometimes dispatched to investigate someone “living” in an RV in my driveway (out-of-state grandparents visiting their new grandbaby for 4-5 days). Was that a poor use of resources? Absolutely! Same Fussypot complaining about a cat who WOULD NOT be an inside-only resident triggered an animal officer at my door. We are all happier now that she moved to a tonier suburb; these events were irritating. But we DO want (most of) these rules so that there IS recourse if someone leaves their trash cans at the curb for days every. single. week., or is running a disruptive business out of their home. BTW, did you know you can file FOIA request to find out if there’s a “Mrs. Kravitiz” in your neighborhood? Not that you should go after them with pitchforks; instead maybe engage them and make them feel a part of the neighborhood (the backstory of our busybody was that she had a very difficult relationship with her adult children). I like the idea of transparent and considered rules for transgressions, but I really dislike the inconsiderate and inflammatory language. It’s not professional, kind, or productive.

  10. Ms Calhoun
    Let me make it clear no one is arguing for no zoning rules although many are out of date or inconsistent or really are not needed. This should not turn into a “Tony” area like some would want it. It is first and foremost an agricultural community.
    The issue here is that there have been instances where the zoning office has overreached what is necessary and use a cannon instead of a fly swatter.
    Does any zoning infraction really need a visit with police in tow. I don’t think so and why isn’t a letter sufficient to start the process.
    Since I posted the piece I have heard from people who have described some not so nice interactions with the zoning people. When you talk about civil I can tell you some of the encounters explained to me did not start out by the township taking a friendly approach. These people are reluctant to come forward because they feel there is no response from the township. or worse they will be retaliated against. I suggest that the township appoint an ombudsman from another law firm other than the current one they use and let him set up a confidential process to investigate instances of inappropriate encounters alleged by the citizen.

    How many complaints have there been against them. I wonder?

    I could give you a personal experience visited upon me when I first bought my place. The zoning person told me that I had to tear down two buildings and I said I will go to zoning board, he replied the zoning board does what he tells them to do. After several thousands in legal fees the board said he was wrong. In fact the chair said I wrote this ordinance and it is clear on its face that it only applies to multifamily housing. Did I ever get an apology from the township, not on your life.
    I probably could have sued for reimbursement of my legal fees. But chose not to go that route.
    So again I ask you and others to get involved instead of throwing verbal assaults against each other. I challenge you and others to come up with a list of rules you think should apply when there is a zoning infraction. Here are two to start with wearing a plain shirt or blouse if you have to visit someone no logos implying you are affiliated with the sheriffs department, and start the process with a letter first unless the violation is an immediate danger to life or limb. Certainly a child selling lemonade on a small backroad should not require a visit. I hope that encounter did not have that young child being scolded by the zoning people. A letter to the parents would suffice.

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