Election 2024: Peninsula Township Candidate Q&A - Kelly J. Clark
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Election season is upon us! I’ve sent out a list of questions to all the candidates running for office in Peninsula Township, and I’ll be publishing them here on the Gazette in the order they’re received. Candidates include:

Supervisor: Kelly J. Clark, Maura Sanders
Clerk: Rebecca W. Chown
Treasurer: Katie M. Clark
Trustee (4 positions available): Kate Jerman, Mark Luea, J.P. Milliken, David K. Sanger, Fred Swaffer, Jr., Julie Alexander, Warner Queeny, Armen B. Shanafelt, Isaiah S. Wunsch

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View all candidate responses here, and read on for thoughts from Kelly Clark, who is running for the position of Township Supervisor.

About You

What is your name, party affiliation, and what Peninsula Township office are you running for?

Kelly J. Clark, running for Peninsula Township Supervisor on the Republican ballot.

Why are you running for this position, and what qualifications do you bring to the role?

I am running for Supervisor for the same reasons I was an educator for 25 years, the same reasons I am in real estate, and the same reasons I am publishing a children’s book that gives 50 percent of proceeds to the non-profit I created to protect and preserve the Great Lakes; to make a difference and lead with a servant’s heart.

As far as experience goes, as a former Trustee for TCAPS Board of Education, I served on multiple committees and was instrumental in keeping Old Mission Peninsula School in the hands of our community.

Have you served on any Peninsula Township committees or boards, and if so, which ones?

The Clark family has served in an unofficial capacity for the past 20 years as the UBMAS (Ultimate Bayshore Marathon Aid Station). I have offered multiple times to serve on the Shoreline Committee, but have been denied by the current zoning administrator.

How long have you lived on the Old Mission Peninsula?

From the age of 4 through 16, I lived on Power Island every summer, where my father was the ranger. My parents moved to Old Mission when I was 7 years old. My wife Julie and I knew we wanted to raise our family here, and we bought our first home on the Peninsula 30 years ago.

What is your vision for Peninsula Township in 10, 20, 50 years? Do you support maintaining the rural character of the Old Mission Peninsula?

Absolutely! We all recognize that we live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
I will strive to maintain the rural character that provides the backdrop and heartbeat to the stunning vistas of green acres and blue waters.

In 10 years, we will continue to be recognized as one of the most beautiful places on Earth, with a vibrant and thriving community, recognized for our work in the agritourism industry and for protecting the Great Lakes, home to 20 percent of the world’s freshwater.

In 20 years, we will not only be recognized as one of the most beautiful places, but also as a tax-free haven that has flourished, making us the model for the rest of the country to follow. (One can dream.)

In 50 years, I may not be around, but I also know that we will have made a positive impact and preserved the beauty of Old Mission Peninsula for future generations.

Do you support large scale developments such as “Peninsula Shores,” formerly known as “The 81 on East Bay”?

I would be lying if I said I was against it, because I benefited by selling a beautiful home in Peninsula Shores. There is room for well planned development, especially those that have water views or frontage. Ag land close to water can be a recipe for environmental disaster.

More developments like Peninsula Shores will be coming, especially if we continue to add more restrictions into the PDR program and we do not allow farmers the ability to creatively generate revenue. We will continue to see farmers not sign their rights away and homes will be the last crop, which is what we are trying to avoid.

How will you ensure community transparency in Township finances, meetings and decisions?

The current optics are not good. It’s hard to claim you are out of money but then vote to give yourselves an $8,000 cost of living increase. I’m not saying it isn’t warranted, but it doesn’t look good, especially when it is done during spring break when nobody is in town to speak against it.

The shoreline meetings were strategically moved to 3 p.m., an inconvenient time for the employed, by the Director of Planning and Zoning in order to keep quiet the fact that they want to add more permit fees for shoreline residents. This also creates a lack of transparency and distrust.

How do you plan to make a difference on the Old Mission Peninsula? What are your top priorities?

My first priority will be to remove the barriers to the Township offices. Buzz-in security systems and glass panels separating community servants from the citizens and neighbors they represent sends the wrong message. It certainly does not say “we are here to help you.”

My second priority would be to find a win-win solution in regards to the winery lawsuit. The lawsuit has taken a toll on the existing board in terms of time and legal fees, and has eaten into the reserve fund. I believe we should be leaning into agritourism to give farmers an opportunity to explore other streams of revenue. The last crop is always houses and development.

My third priority is to ensure we have working septic systems. In Michigan, more than 1.3 million septic systems treat millions of gallons of sewage each day, and a recent report by Public Sector Consultants estimates that between 130,000 and 325,000 of these systems are failing to adequately process wastewater, threatening not only public health but also drinking water sources. This is a great example of a project that my non-profit would be looking to contribute to, elected or not.

Citizen Engagement

How can Peninsula Township encourage citizens to become more involved in Township issues, attend meetings, etc.?

In most cases, a third of the people are always in favor, a third are always opposed, and a third are not interested. That being said, I would make house calls, especially for the older members of our community. Why does going door to door stop when the election is over? I will continue to knock on doors and reach out to our community members to hear their thoughts and concerns, then hopefully listen to their potential solutions. As Lou Holtz said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Peninsula Township relies on volunteers to help with public services, such as well-maintained parks and serving on Township committees and boards. How can the Township increase this pool of volunteers?

I am glad my opponent has been given the opportunity to volunteer. I have volunteered multiple times to serve on the shoreline committee, only to be told no by the zoning administrator. Other volunteers have quit because they did not agree with the administrator’s agenda.

There are a lot of people in this community that help in so many ways. Perhaps there are businesses that would be willing to adopt, sponsor and care for a park? They could host park volunteer days to maintain and improve the park. Perhaps we could reach out to Eagle Scouts and other groups to see if they would be interested in park projects?

Do you support holding periodic town hall meetings where citizens can have back-and-forth discussions with Township officials?

I think that is not only healthy, but necessary. TCAPS also had a three-minute time limit, and board members were not allowed to respond to comments. I would like the option to extend time, especially if someone has indepth knowledge on a subject.

I understand the reasons why they want to limit the time. Nobody wants to be in the meetings until the early morning hours, but conversations need to be had. There should be a policy in place that says if you’re requesting the staff be there for hours in the evening, the office won’t be open until later the next day. These are your neighbors. They have lives and need time to live them.

Do you support an open-door policy at the Township where walk-in visits are allowed?

100 percent. I have always had an open door policy in every position I have held.

Township Administration

The Township has experienced a high level of turnover in the Planning department during the past decade. How can the Township improve staff retention?

A change of leadership will lead to a change of the Planning and Zoning administrator. That will help immensely, not only with future staff retention, but also with transparency and regaining the trust of the community.

Which parts of the Township budget do you believe could be cut or eliminated?

I enjoyed poring over the budget to gain a better understanding. I have come up with some ways to potentially generate revenue, but would task each department with an exercise to find a way to eliminate 10 percent. They are the experts and should be the ones to make the decisions that will have the least impact for their department, if needed. I also optimistically expect legal fees to come down.

Will you adhere to due process, or will you make decisions based on circumstances and relationships?

I believe in due process and, unlike past meetings, I won’t threaten to cancel a meeting due to applause from the opposition. As for relationships, they will understand why the answer is not always the one they want to hear.

Do you support or oppose moving to a charter township and why?

I see no benefit for our community in moving to a charter township, but it will open up the potential for less public input and much higher property taxes. I would be more interested in investigating the potential opportunities of incorporating as a village, which would provide for more local services and the ability to take responsibility for public works and utilities.

Regarding hours at the Township office, do you support moving back to a five-day work week of seven-hour days, 9 to 5 or 8 to 4, with an hour off for lunch?

The goal is to be effective, not combative. We work for the community. It is important for staff to not only be available, but also welcoming. I would also add it’s important to recognize that we live in a different world now, and there are multiple ways staff can help people remotely.

My real estate business is a 24/7/364 job. I don’t see the Supervisor position any differently. Becky Chown is a great example of a public servant who puts in countless hours to help our community and help people at the Township offices. While she may need to be there for scheduled appointments, she should be able to build in some flex time, as well.

Would you support lowering application permit fees, dropping the cash requirement for escrow funds, and allowing a bond in lieu of cash at applicant’s choosing?

I would like to see permit fees reduced or eliminated, where possible. Why should citizens have to pay for a right they already have to put up a fence on their property, a deer blind on their field, a hoop house on their farm or a dock on their beach?

The escrow situation seems similar to the 2019 Michigan Supreme Court case, Michigan Association of Home Builders v City of Troy, where the Supreme Court found that the City of Troy’s use of inspection fee revenue to pay for past budgetary shortfalls was unreasonable because the fees were not reasonably related to the operation of the Building Department. It may lead to a slippery slope and more lawsuits.

Master Plan, Ordinance and Enforcement

How will you address residents/applicants who refuse to follow the ordinance? How will enforcement take place?

I would like to review the ordinances more indepth to see where changes may be made. I am in agreement with the current board that complaints be investigated, but I am not going out of my way to violate people’s privacy by flying drones over their homes, looking for ways to penalize and fine them.

In areas where the Township’s operational budget is already strained, how can the Township address more resident complaints, allegations of non-compliance, and public nuisance issues?

I’m surprised the board has not attempted to require citizens to put money in escrow to file complaints, as well.

Have you read the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, and do you understand the procedures for adopting a Master Plan and amending a zoning ordinance?

I have read it, and I am familiar with the framework, but far from an expert at it … yet. Article II Section 125.3201 lays out regulation of land development and establishment of districts; provisions; uniformity of regulations; designations; limitations. Section 125.3202 lays out zoning ordinance; determination by local legislative body; amendments or supplements; notice of proposed rezoning.

Will you follow the zoning ordinance as written, or will you make exceptions where convenient?

As Victor Hugo said, “Change your opinions, keep your principles, change your leaves, keep in tact your roots.”

What elements of the Master Plan do you feel are lacking most?

I have a copy of the 2011 Master Plan and the more recent draft from 12/8/21. It is quite comprehensive. Of the random sample of 200 adults, 46 of whom skipped the question that asked if the Peninsula was headed in the right direction, 56 percent said they were satisfied. It also states that, “In sum, township residents are, by and large, content with the status quo.” That was three years ago. I’m not sure that is the case today. As for the development of wineries, 48 percent of online respondents stated they were in support. I’d be curious to see if that number has gone up or down with the lawsuit.

Wineries and Winery Lawsuit

Had you been on the Township Board during the WOMP v Peninsula Township settlement discussions, how much Township money would you have given up to the wineries?

I don’t believe it would have gotten to that point.

If Township insurance does not cover all the damages claimed by the wineries in the winery lawsuit, how do you feel about OMP residents having to personally pay for those damages?

I think most people recognize that the wineries are not looking to hurt their neighbors, employees or community members. If it came to that point, I suppose community members could decide to boycott the wineries, by not providing them with employees, not buying their products, etc. I don’t think that division does us any good as a community, but it is a possibility.

Regarding the Wineries:

  • Should they be allowed to have unlimited weddings? When TCAPS considers a new curriculum, they run a pilot program to test it out. We should apply the same strategy with the wineries and agricultural community that gives us some flexibility and fluidity to evaluate and adjust as needed.
  • Should they be allowed to operate full-service restaurants? I’m sure there are a couple that would like to have a restaurant. It makes sense, and I think it would be good for the community. The question is how would they be able to make it work when so many places are already struggling to staff employees?
  • Should they be allowed to be open until 2 a.m.? I am not in favor of that, and there has not been a single winery owner that I have spoken to that has any intention of staying open until 2 a.m. They have a hard enough time finding staff for the existing business hours.
  • Should they be required to support OMP farmers via collaborations and/or using locally-grown produce? As much as possible. Somewhat related – every year Julie and I volunteer at the National Cherry Festival. This year there is only one wine from OMP being served there. I would like to see the NCF promote local products like wines from WOMP, spirits from Mammoth Distillery, beers from Right Brain, etc. I know they can’t compete with the big sponsors, but perhaps they could be minor sponsors and get their products out in front of the masses.

Overall, what are your thoughts on the winery lawsuit?

The only ones benefiting are the lawyers.

OMP Farmers

Do you support ordinances that help OMP farmers thrive, such as food processing kitchens, workshops, cooking classes, farm tours, larger roadside stands and more?

100 percent. We need to give farmers more ways to generate revenue because they cannot survive on apple and cherry crops alone. According to the Master Plan, “It is generally felt that the zoning ordinance does not provide adequate flexibility for a complete range of agri-business uses … and carefully relaxing certain requirements is considered to be a logical step toward enhancing and supporting local agri-business.” It will add some traffic, but it will undoubtedly add to the rural charm of our community..

How will you assist young farmers looking to start their business or sustain existing farms for young farmers?

I do not have a background in farming, but I know a lot of good people with big hearts who do. The first thing I would want to do is connect them with our amazing farming community so they can get accurate, helpful information.

Do you believe in the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program? Do you believe that a PDR conservation easement should place limitations on the future commercial use of a property?

I do support PDR, but I also recognize that the restrictions being placed on them are having the opposite effect of their intent. Farmers are not signing their rights away because of the restrictions. Why would they not be given the opportunity to find other creative ways to generate revenue, which would benefit the community as a whole?

I also think the PDR areas located further out on OMP should be given priority. A lot of our development is at the base of the Peninsula. Pelizzari Natural Area is great, but I would have rather seen development there, closer to town, rather than further out the Peninsula.

Do you support an OMP farmer’s market and/or a local artists/artisan market?

Absolutely and enthusiastically I would support this. I think it would be the greatest farmer’s market in the state. During Covid (remember when the government totally ignored the constitution and locked everyone in their homes for months?), my wife and daughter started collecting and polishing Petoskey stones from our beach to make jewelry, key chains, etc., and then sold them at Folgarelli’s Market. I would love for Peninsula Petoskey Co. LLC to get a stall at the OMP Farm Market and would encourage more entrepreneurial endeavors.

Taxes

In your view, what will Township governance look like if the AxMiTax ballot initiative passes?

AxMITax is a ballot initiative to prohibit state, county or municipal taxes. I am in support of the ballot initiative. It would require two thirds of voters to approve local taxes and two thirds of the legislature to raise revenue by more than .1 percent over 5 years. It would increase the percentage of sales tax revenue distributed to local governments from 15-20 percent and 0-10 percent for counties, and would require municipalities and counties to receive 10 percent of tax revenue from income, marijuana, alcohol and tobacco.

It would also require that tax revenue distributed to municipalities and counties be used to fund only essential government and infrastructure services. Property tax is an anchor around the neck of Michigan farmers and business owners. Property tax is inherently unfair and unjust. I don’t think anyone should be under the threat of losing their home.

Do you support a Parks Millage to maintain and improve Township parks?

I would rather have each winery or two wineries adopt the park closest to their location. They could use the Roundup app, giving guests the option to round up the change from their sales to the nearest dollar, which could then be used for park improvements.

We could then survey neighborhoods closest to the respective parks to see which services, equipment, art installations, etc. they would like to see added to their neighborhood park. After all, they’ll be the ones using it most. The better the wineries do, the better the parks do. Wineries get a nice tax deduction, volunteers will still be valued, and we do not have to ask taxpayers for more money.

What are your thoughts on the Headlee Rollback?

I am not in favor of raising property taxes or raising or adding more fees, especially while most people are being burdened with massive inflation.

Other Township Issues

Should there be a public vetting of candidates as to whether they are each in compliance with the Township?

I would say that it already exists.

Do you think Bluff Road should be fixed and re-opened? How would you go about making that happen?

I have spoken to some residents of Bluff Road, and there are some who would like to see it remain as is. I would certainly be seeking their input. Maybe we can get help with funding if we put in a roundabout there lol.

What is your opinion of short-term rentals on the OMP? Should they be allowed? Do you operate a short-term rental on the OMP?

I am in favor of maintaining the board’s current position. As Mr. Sanger told us, “We only investigate if there are complaints.” We have rented our home out for the month of July for the past two years. We don’t want to rent because it is a lot of work, but with two kids in college and a third soon to be, it is a financial lifesaver for us. It is especially helpful in conjunction with the Augusta Rule. It’s also nice that another family gets to experience for a month what we get to experience every day.

This past spring I was contacted by VRBO, or so I thought. The person asked if we would be interested in participating in their free marketing program, since we historically only had a couple of rentals. I explained that it was our primary home and we only rented it out for the month of July. They said we could still participate, and I said, “Sure, why not?”

It turns out it was not VRBO, and our account had been compromised. They not only failed to list the 30 day minimum requirement, they took bookings, took the money, then cancelled their reservation. I was locked out of our account for almost three weeks while VRBO tried to figure out what was going on.

When finally able to log in, I did not cancel the other two reservations. It did not seem fair to ruin more people’s vacations. I have been in communication with Mr. Sanger via email since this started. If one of our neighbors is affected and complains to the township via email, we will pay the fine if levied, and expect to be able to know who the complainant is.

My opponent would like to distract you from the bigger picture that the Township is constantly demanding more money in fees and increased property taxes, while simultaneously not giving taxpayers, be they farmers, wineries, architects, builders, landscapers or homeowners, the ability to generate revenue. If my opponent is elected, that will continue.

What is your opinion on additional residential buildout on the OMP?

Buildout will naturally occur within the parameters of existing zoning requirements. I would agree with the Master Plan that the designated rural areas are not to be regarded as undeveloped properties to be developed later, but rather intended to be designated as agricultural or natural areas.

How would you address the desire for more commercial activity by some residents and the lack of commercially-zoned property?

Again, there are opportunities for strategic development. Look at Seven Hills. That has been a great addition to our community, giving our community another option for entertainment and socializing that fits in with the mixed-use commercial area in the Master Plan.

Do you support a non-motorized pathway similar to the TART Trail throughout the Old Mission Peninsula? How would you make that happen when a trail cannot cross farmland due to farming rules and regulations?

The most recent survey from 2019 says there is “unequivocal support for a non-motorized transportation plan.” I don’t believe that has changed. It would be great in terms of safety for bikers and joggers. What downtown TC did with the sidewalk that runs along Front Street, by adding the bike path is fantastic, but the only way it is happening is through working with other agencies (MDOT, GT County Road Commission) to create a lane that would run with Center Road.

Maybe Seven Hills, Mission Table, Jolly Pumpkin and the Boathouse would also like to participate in the round up program, and the funds can go toward a bike path along Center Road. Once again, the better our establishments do, the better for bikers and joggers and all of us who drive on the roads.

Should Peninsula Township seek collaboration with our regional partners such as the Michigan Department of Transportation, Grand Traverse County Road Commission, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)?

Relationships are critical. More things are accomplished together versus alone.

Do you support the proposal of a new fire station to replace Fire Station #1 in Mapleton?

As a former Grand Traverse County Marine Deputy, I am obviously in favor of supporting our first responders, but I would like to go and see for myself if this is a critical need before endorsing.

Would you support a new community center?

The churches have historically filled that role nicely. Perhaps the library could be modified and share space as a community center, but I would not advocate for spending more tax dollars to create a new center.

Final Thoughts

Any other comments you’d like to add?

I wake up grateful every single day, knowing how blessed we are to live in such a unique area with stunning views and natural beauty of the area as well as the people. We all live here and appreciate the Old Mission Peninsula for the same reasons. This is a huge responsibility, and I do not take it lightly. I appreciate all who have reached out in support.

My opponent has labeled me as a “repeat offender.” There is one outstanding charge against me for refusing to pay for a permit to put a fence on my property. Wait until this board starts charging you permit fees for putting a fence on your property, a deer blind in your field, a hoop house on your farm or a dock on your beach. I would hope we would all be wearing the label of repeat offender at that point.

After touting her experience as a member of a township board that must have the most lawsuits in history, she claimed that I am the reason our Township is in the red, for failure to pay a permit fee. I’ve seen people pass the buck before, but this one takes the cake.

There are two names on the Republican primary ballot for August 6th who are running for Township Supervisor. Only one of us actually has the support of the Republican Party. If you think there is room for improvement, I appreciate your vote.

If you’re happy with increased fees and pressure to increase property taxes to pay for lawsuits, heavy-handed tactics for those who speak out at meetings, and a lack of creative problem solving, vote for my opponent.

Thank you,
Kelly J. Clark, aka Offender, for Township Supervisor
(I’ll save the term Repeat Offender for the re-election)

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Kelly, please highlight where in the budget you are finding an $8,000 per officer raise. While many statements in your Q&A responses are false, this is one that I’ve already corrected several times, and your repetition of this talking point demonstrates willful dishonesty and deception of the public.

  2. Mr. Clark, that was certainly an interesting Q & A. Unfortunately, you didn’t answer some very pertinent questions and you danced around others. There are many falsehoods and misrepresentations that you put together for publication. I will start from the base layer and point out the other retraction items as soon as I gather legitimate communications through appropriate information requests.

    Below are two links showing when I resigned from the Board in 2018 to support my husband’s next assignment and when I was appointed back to the Board this last Fall. I’m not sure where you are getting your facts, but they are incorrect and deserve a retraction. “After touting her experience as a member of a township board that must have the most lawsuits in history…. I’ve seen people pass the buck before, but this one takes the cake.” (Kelly J. Clark, Old Mission Gazette, July 6, 2024). Reference Links: https://www.oldmission.net/2023/10/old-mission-news-photos-oct-2023/ Maura appointed back the Board after the WOMP Lawsuit was well underway. https://www.oldmission.net/2018/05/omp-news-81-junk-ordinance-post-office/ Maura resigned from the Board BEFORE the WOMP Lawsuit commenced.
    Your attempt to saddle me with responsibility for the WOMP lawsuit has no credibility since I was not on the board during the period that the lawsuit developed.

  3. Kelly, your statement that the township uses a drone to surveil residents’ properties is also false. Not only is your statement regarding drone use untrue, but it borders on conspiracy theory. I would respectfully ask that you retract this statement unless you are ok with peddling falsehoods to the residents.

  4. Mr. Clark, you have stated in your Old Mission Gazette survey response that you were “instrumental in keeping Old Mission Peninsula School in the hands of our community.”
    Please explain to the community what you did that was “instrumental” to that endeavor.
    Thank you.

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