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(Editor’s Note: Township Board member Rudy Rudolph has something to say about the most recent township meeting where building heights were the topic of conversation. Read on for his thoughts. And if you’ve got something to say about anything related to the Old Mission Peninsula, write it up and send it to me, [email protected]. -jb)

The Township is at it again! Those damn township officials think nothing about stepping on the rights of regular citizens! The bums! I have a good right to be upset! That seemed to be the attitude of around 30 percent of the citizens attending the joint Planning Commission and Township Board meeting on Nov. 14. The jeering and booing generally disrupted what was supposed to be an open and businesslike exchange of ideas. Let me share with you what was going through my mind watching all this.

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I couldn’t help but think back to the mob scenes I used to see in those “old time” westerns. Growing up in the fifties, the Saturday matinees at the Viking Theater in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin, were a common diversion for us kids. You know the movies I’m talking about. You can still find them on YouTube. The Lordly, free wheeling Cattle Baron, used to having his way in the unfettered freedom of the open plains, is set against the settlers and the townspeople who are trying to civilize the west by bringing in law and order! Oh, and they bring those dang fences (read “ordinances” here) too!

Then you have the Nefarious Saloon Owner who makes his living off the thirsty, sex starved cowboys who work for the Cattleman and who descend on the town, every payday, directly to the Crystal Palace Emporium to “let off steam.” Those rowdy cowboys invariably get into trouble, perhaps even get involved in shout outs. It gets bad, really bad!

Well, the plot thickens. The townspeople band together to pass some laws and hire a sheriff, usually played by someone like Gary Cooper or Gregory Peck, to bring “law and order” to the town, for the good of the community. Sooner or later, the sheriff has to throw one of those cowboys, or in the worst case scenario, one of the hired guns of the Cattleman or Saloon owner, in jail. Neither the Cattleman and/or the Saloon owner like this, so one or both of them whip up a mob scene designed to disrupt the authority of the sheriff and “Take Back the Town.”

Yep, pardner, in my opinion, it was just like that. Before me was a mob of people that were told, nay convinced, by one or two vocal standouts on social media, that their “rights” were being “trampled” by those nasty, power loving, rights grabbing Township Officials.

And over what subject was all this rights trampling taking place? Well, your Township Planner was merely trying to clarify, with input from the public, at a well publicized, open, public meeting, how the citizens wanted an ordinance, that has been on the books for decades, to be interpreted. Does that sound like trampling? Really? And what was the issue? How to measure the height of residential buildings. For goodness sake!

Any quick Google search will convince you that the height of residential buildings is a normal restriction set in almost any land use ordinance in our wonderful United States. You might wonder why this is so common. After all, it’s a free country. Shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I want?

There are really three reasons that I can think of to restrict building height. First, neither pilots nor the Federal Aviation Authority like tall buildings on the approach path to an airport. I can assure you this is true because, being a licensed pilot, I don’t like anything sticking up in the airspace. Well, OK, that does make sense but, hey, we are not anywhere near an airport here on the Old Mission Peninsula. At least not yet.

Second, people seem to want their right to open space around their buildings and their view shed to be protected. Well now, this may strike a little closer to home. Let’s say you have found your dream property on a land development here on the Old Mission Peninsula. It’s one of the upper slope sites with clear views of East Bay and the surrounding orchards and vineyards. It’s expensive, but the view is worth it! You invest in the lot and build your dream home.

Then someone buys the lot across the road and decides to build a really, REALLY big structure with towers and turrets blocking your view. Would you be upset? You bet! And do you think that could never happen on Old Mission? If you do, you are totally naive!

If there were not protective ordinances, it could and — because it would be to the economic advantage of the builders and developers — it would! But, this isn’t even the really, really, REALLY important reason for building height restrictions.

In a former life I was trustee of a rural Fire Protection District in Illinois. I served on that board for 18 years, nine of them as president of the board. You might be interested to learn that our county ordinance limited building heights to 35 feet, measured from average grade to the midpoint of the roof. If you research ordinances throughout the country, you will find this is a very typical residential building height restriction. There was, and is, a very good reason for this restriction. Our Illinois rural fire equipment could not reach any higher than about 25 feet. If they needed to extricate someone from the upper floor of a burning building, that was it! There is no greater fear to a fire fighter than having someone trapped in a burning building where they cannot be reached.

Think about that a little bit. Do you know how high your local fire fighting equipment can realistically reach? Would you hope your fire fighters could reach you if your house were on fire and you were trapped in an upper floor?

Now, in Illinois, where we lived, it was not hard to figure out how to measure building height. Heck, it was flat as a pancake. We used to joke that the highest elevation in our district was the overpass over Interstate 72. But in Old Mission we have highly variable terrain. Because of this, it is really attractive to be able to use the terrain to advantage, when building, to get that extra walk out basement as usable living space.

And there is where the problem comes in from a fire safety standpoint. If the building is on fire, and you can’t get to it from the front because of where the fire is, then you have to attack it from the rear, down slope, side. From that position, it may be well over 25 feet to that upper, third floor, window egress.

And this is why there is a legitimate public safety question about not only what restrictions should be placed on building height, but also how to measure the building height on sloping ground. And that is why your Planner was asking the very simple question.

To those of you who presented yourselves as a mob scene on Nov. 14, I would point out that you could have learned all this yourselves by a) calling your township office to discuss why there are building height restrictions, or b) doing a Google search of “building height restrictions” like I did.

Instead, you chose to listen to a few people who told you your precious “rights” were being trampled on, and you acted just like the mob from one of those old westerns.

A good question, in my mind, is just why the people stirring the mob frenzy wanted that intimidating mob scene to happen. Why would it be to their advantage to have the normal, open and rational work of your township disrupted? Are they akin to the Cattle Barons or Saloon Owners of the old westerns?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but it is something to ponder, and shame on you for letting them get to you. You’re better than that!

Thanks for listening to an old man.

W. William Rudolph
One of your Voluntary, Power Grabbing Township Trustees

Also Read…

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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8 COMMENTS

  1. Ponder this: Maybe a little introspection as to why the board has lost the trust of its constituents would be a good place to start.

  2. Mr, Rudolph, If you think that was a mob scene, you have led a sheltered life. The citizens who were not happy with what is going on did not get that way because they like to make trouble. They were reacting to a proposal and procedures which if enacted would have a significant impact on their present or future net worth. Each person is given three minutes to express themselves. The fact that they clapped for others is by no means a mob reaction. I did not see you commenting on the clapping that took place a couple of years ago when the Board had a meeting at St. Joseph’s church. Is that because they were expressing a view you agreed with or have you just come to the conclusion that clapping is violence.

    I will say that I respect the fact that you are willing to express your opinion on what you think about those who express themselves with views contrary to your own. Most citizens who have a position that does not align with the Board’s view are usually afraid to say so in a public forum. The fact that so many were there and so many spoke is a testament to how concerned they were to what was about to take place. By the way from the looks of it on YouTube it was 90% not 30% that held that opinion.

  3. In addition as stated by the Planner the 35 ft height limit would be to the top of the roof. You stated that in your town it was to the mid-point of the roof as it is in most cases. Nowhere did I see Ms. Cram explain why it had to be the top of the roof rather than the mid point.

  4. Too often I have seen you and others on the board just ignore comments on a given issue which are opposed to the proposed action. No discussion, a seemingly “fix is in vote.” Making the effort of speaking out as a citizen seems like a waste of time. Lets not kid ourselves here. If the vocal opposition had not occurred I am 100 per cent assured there would have been no study group formed to come to hopefully a sensible proposal.
    I wonder why there are to be no minutes of that study group or zoom access. What is there to hide? Just another non transparent inner workings of our government. Just like the ptp dominated so called ag committee. By the way that committee started out with minutes and then they were stopped. So three loud cheers for those brave enough to publicly express their views. I suggest those of you hurt by some booing snd cheering watch the British parliament Prime Minster question time

  5. What is described in this article is not what I saw on the You Tube video. I saw citizens expressing their views on two important issues. And I agree with most but not all of the presenter’s opinions because we citizens have been too long left out of the decision-making process. We are mostly given lip service with our three minutes of fame. I appreciated the comments of all who spoke. David Taft was most passionate as he spoke from the heart. His knowledge base was superb. I do not agree with most of what he said but good for him. Others like Marty Lagina were spot on. We are tired of a few of our board members and administrators circumventing law (Michigan Zoning and Enabling Act of 2006) and or intentionally misleading us on issues. And that is why people showed up. The meeting results have us now moving in the right direction. Citizen committees and now being formed for the building height issue and subsequently at the Planning Commission meeting last week a citizen committee will be formed for Shoreline regulation zoning changes coming in the future. And lastly the sneak attack of 6.1.5 (“if it is not in the ordinance then it is not allowed) being added to 204 draft at the last moment without Planning Commission direction or approval was thwarted. Yes our citizens made a difference that night of Nov. 14th.

  6. Mr. Randolph, I found your history lesson herein both off putting and simply disrespectful. As a public official, we should be able to expect more from you than this level of disrespect. As a Township Trustee you should be very concerned that the temperament of the township residents has now reached a boiling point, not adding fuel to an already burning fire. What happened on November 14 should have been a clear signal to you and other Trustees that something in this township is VERY broken. Could it have been the flyer that was sent to our homes by the ill-fated “have never protected the peninsula” self annointed Protect The Peninsula troupe stating the huge assessment we should expect from the winery lawsuit? Or could it be that once again it was November, and the Township knows that over 50% of its residents head for warmer climates and low and behold new and restrictive zoning seems to make its way onto the meeting agendas? Or could it be that for decades, we have had a township run by a small group of sixth generation farmers that have collected the lions share of our PDR monies and done their best to ensure that the door was closed at the base of the peninsula to anyone that has a global and different perspective of land use rights? These, and many many other issues have gotten us here. What happened on November 14 was merely a culmination of decades of frustration from residents who are tired of a lack of due process, true collaboration, and the my way or the highway mentality that has been pervasive via our township officials. I am unclear how long you have lived on OMP, but I have lived here for 23 years and have watched this behavior by our township go from bad to worse, get better for a time when we had a non sixth generation farmer running the township, and now go back to what likely is the worst governance I have seen in my 23 years. What is equally as disrespectful, but you failed to mention, was that the appointed, not elected township supervisor was a key leader in your “mob scene”. You failed to call out his behavior akin to a temper tantrum, complete with the denunciation that clapping was bulls++t, and threaten the residents to shut down the meeting unless they behaved. Were you in attendance for that segment of the meeting? If so, then why do you feel that this in any way represents the decorum we should expect from our paid officials? As an appointed state economic development official, I can tell you that meeting on November 14 was a small fraction of what we hear at our public meetings. A fraction. Citizen are involved today and they have found their voice. They are done with violations of civil rights including land use rights. They want transparency and collaboration…..BEFORE something is proposed. They will not stand for the typical gag reflex that comes from the “my way or the highway” mentality of old world governance. So yes, you got one thing right in your opinion piece, and that is the fact that the old world governance in Peninsula Township needs to end. The my way or the highway needs to end. There is no more pulling the wool over the eyes of the residents as was seen on November 14…as the other 50 percent that have not left for warmer climates did those of us that watched in horror on YouTube proud. I am thankful they were there, since I could not be. I am not thankful for the disrespect of our paid township officials to once again try to shove new zoning changes down our throat without proper collaboration and dialogue. I am sincerely hopeful this meeting dawns a new day in governance in our township, but it needs to start with people like you that do not call out the fervor in the room, but work to understand and fix it.

  7. This is a very thoughtful, well reasoned piece. I would love to see this piece sent to every resident rather than the junk mail that seems to arrive every other week in our mail box from the latest iteration of PTP- Friends of Old Mission Peninsula. I see them more as Enemies Of Old Mission Peninsula.

  8. Yesterday I get a post card from a group called “Friends of Old Mission Peninsula.” When you scan the qr code you learn more. First off nobody takes public acknowledgement of heading up or being a member of this group. That’s strange. There is no mission statement or goals listed yet they want your money. Not getting mine. One of their claims is that they are farmer friendly. Oh really? One of their action requests is to stop purchasing products ( wine) from our local vineyards. So they claim to support farmers but want you to stop buying products that contain our farmers grapes. Would any OMP resident buy that line? Lastly they don’t talk about any solutions to the lawsuit or solutions to anything. We don’t need another PTP. One is too many let alone two.

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