Peninsula Drive; Fall colors on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Peninsula Drive; Fall colors on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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(Editor’s Note: The Op-Ed section of Old Mission Gazette is open to anyone. Got something to say? Write it up. Send it to me at [email protected]. Read on for Lou Santucci’s thoughts about a possible ordinance change to be discussed at the Nov. 14 joint session of the Township Board and Planning Commission, 7 p.m. at the Township Hall, 13235 Center Road. -jb)

Christmas will be about a month off when the Peninsula Township Board and Planning Commission hold a joint meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14. They have decided to give us a lump of coal at this meeting for an early Christmas present.

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At this meeting (see the meeting agenda and packet here -jb), they will try to slip an innocuous-sounding bit of language into the zoning ordinance. This is really a terrible attempt to seriously control every aspect of your life on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Before I get to the specifics, understand that this idea of joint meetings has one purpose only. It is to limit citizen awareness and input on critical issues. In the past, before the new township lawyer got involved, ordinances usually had two readings at Planning Commission meetings and two readings at Township Board meetings. Now, they want to eliminate this procedure so that they can sneak these draconian matters by township citizens with limited input.

They did it with the processing ordinance, which, as a group of farmers pointed out, would add to the problems farmers already face with the loss of cherry and apple business all across the region. Notice cherry trees being pulled out of orchards on the Old Mission Peninsula? Apple trees are next.

So, what’s the issue at hand? The Township wants to pass an ordinance which says anything not specifically allowed by an ordinance is forbidden unless approved by the Township. Want to entertain in your back yard? Forget it. Now the Township bureaucrats will decide.

Will there be favoritism for some and not for others? Just look at the recent “moratorium” on enforcing the sign ordinance. After our Township supervisor parked his truck with an oversize sign on the roadside, thus violating several ordinances, the zoning administrator wrote a letter to another farmer noting that their business could not have a small 18-inch sign on the side of the road. It became apparent, after it was pointed out, that this smacks of overt favoritism.

So, rather than cite his fellow board member for violations like he had others, the Township needed to put a moratorium in place that enforced sign ordinances for farm stands so the supervisor would be in the clear. By the way, I agree that the sign ordinance is ridiculous.

The question with such a broad ordinance will be who gets to have that party in their yard. What about a water slide for a birthday party? Or a background set of swings? Or a wading pool? Your family visits from downstate and parks an RV in your driveway. Oops, did the nanny state pass an ordinance for that? If not, sorry, the zoning police will be at your door in minutes!

You think I’m exaggerating. Not really. Many of you may have been on the receiving end of wrongheaded attempts at enforcement. Remember the potted plant fiasco for farm markets? And speaking of Christmas, you can’t put Christmas lights on your house – yep, no ordinance allowing it. Want to put balloons out announcing a birth or birthday or graduation party? Yep, zoning enforcement officer will be out to pop those balloons.

These are small examples but there are others more serious which I have not thought of. The point is, we have gotten along quite well until the individuals sitting in the Township offices decided that they need to increase their control over our lives. It is called control freak creep.

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Editor’s Note: The following is a note from Township Planner Jenn Cram that’s included with the meeting packet explaining the ordinance change. Lou’s op-ed piece continues below the italicized text. -jb

Generally, it is understood that if a land use is not specifically noted within a zone district it is considered to be prohibited, or not allowed. Thus, zoning ordinances usually focus on noting all of the land uses that are permitted as uses by right, with conditions or by special use.

The goal of this amendment is to prohibit land uses that are not compatible within a zone district such as heavy industrial uses adjacent to residential uses and/or agricultural uses. This amendment helps to clarify the status quo. This amendment does not change any of the uses or activities that are customary or incidental to any of the principal and accessory uses currently noted in the zoning ordinance.

As an example, a single-family dwelling is a land use that is allowed by right in the R-1A zone district. The single-family dwelling is the principal or primary use of the land. As part of the single-family residential land use, I have a detached garage that is accessory to the single-family dwelling. Changing the oil in my car within my accessory garage is a customary and/or incidental use of land/structure under the principal use of land for a single-family dwelling.

Likewise, children playing in their yards or hosting friends and family for a barbeque are customary and incidental activities to a single-family residential use. As such, all of the customary and incidental uses do not have to be specifically noted in the zoning ordinance.

This proposed amendment has been introduced for discussion purposes only and is by no means a priority or time sensitive. As such, we look forward to hearing from the Planning Commission, board and public to see if this is an amendment that should be pursued and if so, how verbiage can be drafted such that the community is comfortable with the amendment and its intended purpose.

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More from Lou…

As a side note, the U.S. Constitution under the 10th Amendment expresses the principle of federalism, also known as states’ rights, by stating that the federal government has only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution, and that all other powers not forbidden to the states by the Constitution are reserved to each state or the PEOPLE. Similar logic should hold here. If it’s not forbidden by an ordinance, the people should be allowed – not restricted – to do what is not restricted by an ordinance.

Shouldn’t our Township follow this wise precedent? Otherwise, every move we make will be subject to their whim.

Attend the Nov. 14 meeting and tell the Township Board and Planning Commission loud and clear to kill this proposal. If you can’t go to the meeting, call the Township supervisor or any member of the board or planning commission and tell them you do not support this idea.

Who knows? Maybe because an election year is coming, they might listen. They haven’t before, but maybe now they will.

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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

Bay View Insurance of Traverse City Michigan

7 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t be fooled by this attempt to whitewash what this amendment is all about. Who do you think will determine what is incidental or customary . Not us but our nanny state bureaucrats. It goes without saying that one person should not have the say on this. Disagree with the interpretation of the zoning person and you are forced to go to court.
    They hope you will cave because your cost is too high to go to court. They of course have your tax money to waste on their legal costs.
    It is a dumb proposal and should be killed.

  2. Lou, you have a legal right to lie about me in my role as a public official. However, I do not believe that that exception covers your ongoing defamatory attacks on my sixth generation family farm.

    The fact is that we parked our truck and sign on a farm that we use as part of our u-pick operation at the beginning of 4th of July weekend. You or one of your associates complained to Peninsula Township that this violated the township’s sign ordinance, and the zoning enforcement officer agreed with this allegation. I was given one week to cure the violation, and I did so within one business day of receiving notice from the township that I was in violation of the ordinance. My farm did not receive any special favors from Peninsula Township, and your ongoing campaign of regulatory harassment is proof that I am held to a higher, not lower, standard than other farmers and business people in our community. I’m not sure what your issue is–maybe you are jealous of our u-pick operation? If so, I’d encourage you to focus on doing a great job of farming and marketing your u-pick. If you want to be successful as a small farmer, you are much more likely to do so if you put your time and energy into doing a great job with your own operation rather than attacking others out of spite and envy.

  3. Isiah

    Here you go again. Calling me a liar seems to be the best you can do. You totally miss the point. So here are my comments on your response. There is not a single lie in my piece. You do not own the land on that corner which in any event was not my point.
    The point is that there was unequal treatment of you vis a vis other people with regard to the sign ordinance. The truck was there in 2021 as I recall and certainly in 2022.
    In 2022 just like this year, Dave removed signs on the corner of Carroll road and or threatened the owners with fines etc if they didn’t remove the sign.
    If Dave cited you in 2022 please post a copy of the citation. Your truck remained there in 2022.
    The point as you acknowledge is your truck was treated differently until someone raised a concern. It wasn’t me by the way. You will recall last year i sent you a letter congratulating you on your novel signage and thanking you for leading the way. I also repeated that thought at the town meeting this summer when the township wisely decided to not enforce the ordinance. Don’t you think it looks fishy to everyone that after years of the zoning people hassling others over signs that all of a sudden with the appearance of your truck with too large a sign, the town pulls back.
    We know why. If your truck were not there they never would have considered a change. Let’s assume for a moment you did not have a truck there and I did. Would the town have pulled back enforcement. We both know the answer.
    Finally I am a third generation merchant. I am not jealous of your success but rather support you in everything you are trying to do to make a go of your business. I merely pointed out that unequal treatment should not be the norm as it was in 2022 and part of 2023 until someone raised it. Certainly as supervisor you more than anyone knew the rules.
    As Truman once said if you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

  4. Isiah, I wish I could speak with my real name but I don’t out of fear of retaliation, thats the amount of trust i have in the township with you as the supervisor. In my opinion you’re a condensed, scaled down exemplary embodiment of many of the problems with the executive branch of government in America today. Why do you feel its okay to personally attack township citizens when they criticize your conduct or behavior in while serving in public office? If you can’t handle the stress and critisism, and not being a hypocrite while being subject to public scrutiny, get out of office.

  5. Isiah, I wish I could speak with my real name but I don’t out of fear of retaliation, thats the amount of trust i have in the township with you as the supervisor. In my opinion you’re a condensed, scaled down exemplary embodiment of many of the problems with the executive branch of government in America today. Why do you feel its okay to personally attack township citizens when they criticize your conduct or behavior in while serving in public office? If you can’t handle the stress and critisism, and not being a hypocrite while being subject to public scrutiny, get out of office.

  6. Dear Anonymous, I’m looking for some honest feedback here: please provide at least one concrete example of an instance in which I have retaliated against any individual in the township in any of the roles in which I have served.

  7. Isaiah, Here is some honest feedback that you are seeking. As Supervisor of the Township you supervise and give direction to all of the departments that make up the Township government. Therefore, whenever an action is taken by an official who reports to you it can be assumed that they are responding to your direction. It does not have to be explicit to be consistent with your directive. Case in point, the wineries of the Peninsula have sued the Township for alleged violation of their constitutional rights. This was done after the Township and the wineries could not come to an agreement on how to proceed. Both parties had the right to their position. Only the Township had the ability to retaliate and retaliate they did. Marty Lagina was denied the ability to do something that was previously approved by the Township, Bowers Harbor Winery was harassed for a number of activities that were called “violations”, Todd Oosterhouse was cited for not getting a land use permit for what I believe was a raised garden bed. None of these Township actions were necessary or beneficial to the citizens of the Township.
    I have often used some of my three minutes of speaking time at the Township Board meetings to call for you and the Board to be more focused on bringing the community together and understanding the other side. Never once have I heard back from you that you heard me or whether you agreed or disagreed.
    You have been appointed to a leadership role. But remember leadership entails more listening than talking and that means listening to all sides, not just the side that agrees with your position. Your actions will determine whether of not you want and utilize honest feedback.

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