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HARRISON – The July 10 meeting of the Hayes Township Planning Commission began with a summary statement from chairman Stan Lewis, informing that there would be no representatives of Fisher Construction Aggregates at the meeting, and had asked to be removed from the agenda. Lewis was careful not to even mention the company by name, stating that to do so would have obligated him to notify them that he had done so.
“Those people aren’t going to show up,” Lewis said. “I have no more information than that. And from this point on, everything is between the attorneys. They’re attorney will talk to our attorney and let us know the next time anything’s going to happen. And as soon as we find out, you people will all be informed on what’s happening.”
He rounded it out saying that “nothing is going on right now with that situation on Mostetler Road.” Lewis said people were welcome to stay for the regular meeting if they chose, and of the many residents who attended the meeting, only one person chose to leave at that point.
Moving into its regular quarterly workshop meeting, the commissioners chose to use the election process to replace recording secretary Nola Hopkins who had resigned. The commissioners voted to elect Karen Laskowsky to fill Hopkins’ former spot. Laskowsky then resigned her position as vice chair, and John Marion was elected to serve in that post.
The major portion of the meeting was spent reviewing the new Township Zoning Ordinance, which had been assembled in a semi-finalized form by Ken Hoyt, Hayes Township Zoning Assistant, and presented to the commissioners.
Laskowsky encouraged clarification of several things in the ordinance, such as defining specifically what is a Use Permitted by Right and what is Use Permitted by Special Exemption. She went on to offer a definition taken largely from a resource book to wit: “Special Exemption Uses are those uses of land which are essentially compatible with the uses permitted in a zoning district, but possess characteristics of location qualities which require individual review and restriction in order to ensure compatibility with the character of the surrounding area, public services or facilities, and adjacent uses of the land.”
She also offered a definition from MSU Extension which defined Special Use Permitted by Right: “Special Uses by Right are those uses that are permitted in a zoning district and are not subject to special review or approval by local government employees.”
The commissioners then moved to adopt those two definitions, and Hoyt said he will insert them into the ordinance as 115a and 115b.
Other items Laskowsky brought up that needed clarification included definitions of: Truck Garden; Circuses and Carnival Lots (which is a special use and can be written to expire); and Clubs (which were listed both as special use and use by right with an extremely broad definition which was decided should be more restricted).
Laskowsky also brought up the zoning district for Highway/Commercial, saying she believed it included things that didn’t belong there. As she went through the extensive list of items included, Lewis interjected that most of the tower structures, wireless telecommunications, electric transmission, water and sewage plants have all been taken out of the hands of townships.
She made the case that many of those items are listed as uses by right, but that she felt the definition is not compatible with those items and that they should be taken out of Highway/Commercial and put into Industrial.
The last item on Laskowsky’s list of proposed changes was gravel pits which she said, in her opinion, don’t belong in residential districts, but rather belong in industrial districts. She said that, especially because there are moves afoot in Lansing to take approval authority away from the local entities and demand that if the applicant qualifies, the local entity has to approve whether it’s wanted or not
“As long as we have it allowed in some area, let’s limit where it can be allowed,” Laskowsky said. “Let’s have it in Industrial – it’s an industrial/commercial use, it’s not a residential use.”
Hoyt pointed out the problem that arises from the fact that such facilities have to be located in the least populated areas, and that AR [agricultural rural residential].
Laskowsky stood her ground saying that at least the township would have the prerogative of granting or not granting a change to Industrial.
“If Lansing has its way, we won’t have any prerogative whatsoever” she said. “If they want to put it there, it’s going in there whether we want it or not. As long as we allow it in that zone, and they meet all the requirements, then they get to have it whether we object or not – whether the neighbors object or not.”
Laskowsky went on to question why one entity takes precedence over the rights of everything surround it?
Lewis pointed out that regardless of what zoning is desired to be changed, it has no effect on the process up to this point. He also clarified that because it is a mining operation, mining will happen where the minable materials are found. Lewis also said the state is taking more and more things away from the township’s authority, and that the townships simply do not have the resources/finances to do legal battle over the issue.
The item of AR/Industrial was tabled, with instruction that Hoyt speak with the township’s attorney to get his take on the possibility/feasibility of such a step.
Lewis went on to explain that he and Hoyt had spent the previous two days at a conference where attorneys talked at length about Lansing legislation.
“They don’t even want to discuss gravel mining anymore, because it’s a moot point as far as trying to stop what they’re doing with that process,” Lewis said.
“It’ll all be controlled at the state level,” Hoyt said. “The township or county won’t have any control over it. We were told today that, like it or not, the handwriting’s on the wall.”
Laskowsky also had a second proposal which would add some restrictions under Trucks and Truck Traffic, specifically dealing with liability for road maintenance and repair, and the financial strictures which would ensure the damaging party actually would do the maintenance and repairs for damage their vehicles cause.
Hoyt explained that a bond is required up front, and that Hayes is one of very few townships whose special use permit requires it be reviewed annually by the Hayes Planning Commission.
“That’s why, when you look at the one out by the college and wherever else, how they got out of hand is nobody cared,” he said. “They had no review process.”
It was decided that all Laskowsky’s proposals would be set to the attorney for an opinion on the feasibility of adding them at this time.
At this point, Lewis read HB 4227, which was signed July 9 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“House Bill 4227 will create the Committee of Michigan’s Mining Future, a 15-member committee housed within the Department of Environmental, Great Lakes and Energy that will be tasked with coordinating Michigan mining development. The committee will make recommendations to foster a substantial, diversified mining industry, evaluate and recommend public policy to enhance the growth of the mining and minerals industry, and advise on the development of stakeholder partnerships. Within two years, the committee will deliver a report to the governor, Legislature and Michigan’s Congressional Delegation.”
Lewis noted the bill was sponsored by Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette.
“So, that’s the bill that a lot of people are hope is going to solve their problems, their issues,” Lewis said. “And we’re not the only township dealing with this issue, believe me. We heard about it all for two days; everywhere you go this is an issue.”
The remaining topic for the commissioners was the township’s 20-year master plan, which covers 2014-2034 and is reviewed every five years. This being the fifth year and to stay on track with the review timeframe, the commission set a 7 p.m. July 24 meeting to review the Hayes Township Master Plan.