(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.
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.
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.
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