BURTON – Amendments to a longstanding soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance drew some sharp criticism by at least one city councilman, Jan. 21.
Councilman Tom Martinbianco told the council he thinks the proposed amended ordinance, on the books for at least 20 years now, was a case of governmental overreach by the Michigan Department of Environmental Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) and was a matter better suited to go before the city’s legislative committee rather than city council.
Mayor Duane Haskins said delaying approval of the first reading of the amended ordinance could place the city in a position where it would not be in compliance with an expected audit by EGLE, the state’s current version of the Department of Natural Resources.
“How did this just crop up without going to the legislative committee?” Martinbianco asked. “I don’t understand… the need for it. We already have a state act that regulates land removal and repositioning. So, I don’t understand where this is coming from and I’d like to know that from the city attorney.”
City Attorney Amanda Doyle told the council it was mandated by the state, adding some terms needed to be redefined and some that needed to be inserted.
“There was nothing crazy here, it was one of those things mandated by the (state),” said Doyle. “To enforce it properly we have to have an ordinance for that.”
She added the city has to have an ordinance on the books, regardless of state ordinances, which allow for the enforcement of such statutes. She likened it to traffic laws, which are in place by the state but can only be enforced in communities if they have an ordinance reflecting that law on their books.
Martinbianco still objected.
“It’s governmental overreach, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “It’s getting down to these incremental things about getting into somebody’s private business that I’m opposed to. I’m going to vote no; you guys do whatever you want to do.”
Council President Steve Heffner said it also looked like some sections of the existing ordinance were removed in the amended document. He agreed, however, the legislative committee should look at the ordinance.
Doyle said it was something mandated by EGLE that weren’t meant to cause any serious changes. They were mostly changing some of the wording and legal explanations.
Mayor Duane Haskins said he was fine with sending it to the legislative committee, but he warned delaying could cause the city to fail its upcoming audit with EGLE because the ordinance changes are mandated through the state.
Haskins offered to have Amber Abbey, deputy DPW Director in charge of zoning, address the council regarding the matter, but Martinbianco asked what EGLE’s concern was in the whole matter.
“The mayor said we have a problem with EGLE? What audit do we have to process to let them know we don’t accept their dictates?” he said.
Abbey said EGLE does an audit every five years on the city’s soil erosion ordinance and how it’s enforced. She said the city has done its own soil erosion enforcement for at least the past 20 years and every once in awhile the city is audited to see how it is doing with its own enforcement.
“We have passed everything with flying colors,” she said. “The only thing that we had were some text changes in our ordinance. This is literally the last thing we had to do. None of it changes our enforcement. None of it adds additional regulation onto anything.”
She said the city had to add to the definition of a landowner, edited some of the requirements for the map and the checklist for the application. Abbey said there is nothing in the ordinance that changes anything the city has been doing for the past 20 years in soil erosion enforcement.
The changes reflect changes in what’s required by the state and language and numbers used by the state, said Abbey.
The motion to send the matter to the legislative committee died due to lack of support. A motion to approve the amended ordinance was made by Vice President Greg Fenner and was supported by Councilman Dennis O’Keefe.
“I would just like to voice my displeasure at the issue of governmental overreach,” said Martinbianco. “You’ve got a bunch of attorneys in Lansing that are rewriting the record book, when we have done nothing wrong, we’ve done everything right…we continue to do everything good, but yet we have to rewrite our ordinances. That’s unfair. That’s another legislative mandate that comes down from Lansing.”
Martinbianco added State Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton) should step in and say, ‘you can’t do that, because they’re already doing everything right.’
Heffner said the matter could go to the legislative committee between the approval of the first reading and the second reading, scheduled for next month.
The first reading was approved 5-2, with Martinbianco and Councilwoman Tina Conley voting no.