Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cohoctah - Voters say no to gas station — Businessman might sue township

This is far from over, but the referendum was held, and the no votes win on rezoning. From the Argus

Voters say no to gas station — Businessman might sue township
By Kristofer Karol

Voters have struck down a rezoning request that would have paved the way for a gas station at a major intersection in Cohoctah Township, although the fight might be long from over.
Fifty-six percent of residents in Tuesday's referendum voted "no" on whether the township should rezone some land from rural residential to neighborhood services commercial off Oak Grove Road, just south of the Oak Grove United Methodist Church.

The final tally was 371 no, 291, yes with 28% turnout. This case is now probably going to court.


Keith Richards said...

"The final tally was 371 no, 291, yes with 28% turnout."

This tells me that only 28% of township residents cared enough one way or the other to bother voting.

An application of basic arithmetic reveals that roughly 15.7% of registered voters showed up to vote against it. (based on numbers given in the article)

So 15.7% of registered Cohoctah voters oppose the project enough to fight against it, while 84.3% of registered voters either support it or don't care much one way or the other.

Sounds like Green Oak township all over again. From the mid to late 90's the township kept turning down development projects. In every case the developer sued and won. It got so bad that Green Oak Township became the laughing stock of the county.

Eventually the insurer for the township threatened to cancel coverage. The constant battles and lawsuits became an election issue and was enough to get voters to replace the board and supervisor.

Basically, the courts keep saying that land owners have a right to develop their land in a reasonable way. Even if a township refuses to zone the land correctly for a proposed development a court can overturn the zoning if it believes that a proposed development is suitable for the location.

All I know about the Cohoctah situation is what I've read in the paper, but putting a gas station on a busy corner seems like an appropriate use of the land. I'm not familiar with the area but it must be pretty busy if the owner thinks that it will get enough traffic to make a profit.

Since the developer owns a lot of the land surrounding the proposed gas station it is not clear why there is so much opposition to it. Residents also need to remember that commercial developments pay far more in taxes than residential developments. A few projects like this in a small township will cause a massive increase in tax revenue, which can be used for police, fire protection, and road improvements.

It will be interesting to see how this goes in court but if I had to bet my own money on the outcome I think I'd have to go with the developer. (This is based on what I've seen elsewhere, and is not a personal opinion of the merits of the project.)

The township might be smarter to work with the developer to make sure that a quality project gets built. Development is inevitable because our laws and courts prevent a few anti-development activists from stopping reasonable land use. As Green Oak Township found out, once a developer wins in court they can do whatever they want. On the other hand, when a township works with the developer it is possible to have considerable influence over the details of a project and it saves a lot of money on lawyer fees, damage awards, and increased insurance premiums. Most likely Cohoctah will need to lose a few of these lawsuits before they too learn this lesson.

Radcliffe said...

Unrelated to this post, but Rep. Thad McCotter is making phone calls to his constituents saying he's opposed to the Dubai ports deal b/c of national security.

Keith Richards said...

I can't say I blame McCotter for opposing the sale of the British company that runs a few of our ports to a company owned by the U.A.E. I don't have anything against the U.A.E. (or the British), but I do think that American ports should be operated by Americans, just as a matter of basic security.

One thing I've wondered as I've listended to this controversy - Did this British company operate any ports in Britain or Western Europe? If so, is the U.A.E. going to be operating those ports?

If Americans are the only ones complaining about this deal, perhaps the U.A.E. should just spin off the portion of the British company that handles those deals to a company that we will approve of (Like, maybe an American owned company?)

RKG said...

If the last 20 years in Livingston County have proven anything, it's that once the development steamroller starts it is virtually impossible to stop it. Call it "controlled growth", "quality growth", a "lifestyle center", "upscale this or upscale that" it translates to growth. Most small, rural townships have few ordinances to deal with a sophisticated developer who wants to build. Those same townships rarely are willing to invest the dollars needed to secure the services of a person/firm capable of addressing the issues that will confront small communities facing development pressure. When is the last time you read an article in the LCP&A a chain opening a new store that didn't say, in effect, that the demographics finally justified the investment. The simple reality is that once the demographics tip in favor of development, it is very difficult to stop. Cohoctah would be wise to invest in some serious soul searching about the kind of community they want to be and then invest laying a foundation of plans and ordinances to back up that vision. If they don't, they may find themselves steamrolled by the next lifestyle center.

Republican Michigander said...

Last July, I touched on this subject a little bit - although I was dead wrong about the Detroit mayoral election.

If I had a vote, I would have voted yes, but only for one reason. This was going to court anyway if it failed - similar to Green Oak.

I'm in the minority of Livingston County residents as I'm a native. As a sportsman, I'm concerned at the amount of grown over what was once hunting land. I grew up in the Brighton area when it was country. Since I started high school in the 1990's, at least five subdivisions were enacted in a 2 mile radius near the Genoa/Hamburg border. This was all within the last 15 years. Most of that was after I left for college.

Now I know that growth can not be stopped, but the last thing I would like to see is us become Ann Arbor North. Let's not lose what made Livingston County a great area to live in the first place.

The best way to reduce sprawl however is for the cities and inner ring suburbs to clean up their act.

RKG said...

I may be in the minority on this, but I think it is a mistake to push for new and improved expressway lanes and ramps. I'd rather see US23 to Ann Arbor bumper to bumper twice a day than see 4 or 5 lanes with ramps that feed into every nook and cranny of rural Livingston. Make it easy to get back and forth and people will move here. Make it hard and maybe people will decide that they should live closer to where they work and stay in Livonia or Southfield, etc. We can all tell stories about what it used to be like. Don't make it easy to get here.

Keith Richards said...

I moved into Livingston County when I returned to Michigan after living in another state for several years. I deliberately bought an old house out in the country because I enjoy the fields, farms, and woods. I really don't mind having to drive 20 minutes to grocery shop or buy a can of gas for my lawnmower.

Probably nobody has been more disappointed about all the new development hitting the county than me. If I had wanted to live in Novi I would have moved there.

I do feel torn about all the development. On the one hand I would like to see the county remain rural, while on the other hand I understand the importance of property rights. Somewhere we do need to find a balance, but like most problems the devil is in the details.

Part of the problem we have is that townships have very limited ability to control growth. As noted above, when townships try to stop development projects that are reasonable for a particular site, a court will usually step in on the side of the developer.

I don't want to see growth stopped completely but I would like for townships to have more authority to stick to a good master plan. A lot of the problems that come with growth can be eliminated or minimized with good planning. But planning only works if courts will stand behind the authority of townships to impose reasonable restrictions.

It is a tricky situation to balance. While we can't stop growth it sure would be nice if we could keep the special atmosphere of the county that attracts people out here in the first place.