Repeal of Protective Tree Ordinance fails

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Grand Blanc Township’s Protective Tree Ordinance will remain intact, for now.

The township Board of Trustees on May 12 came up short on the votes needed to proceed with a proposal to prune the ordinance that has drawn criticism from builders and property owners.

Many of the provisions within the ordinance overlap guidelines set forth in the Natural Features Woodland section of the township Zoning Ordinance. Both address issues such as the conservation of natural features, density, size, location and species.

The Protective Trees Ordinance, however, is more comprehensive, with “an awful lot of requirements, some would consider them to be onerous,” said Mark Lloyd, director of Planning and Building.

Lloyd said the township has fielded “a number of complaints.”

There’s also the matter of a recent court case in which a similar ordinance in Canton Township was found to be unconstitutional, he said.

Township attorney David Lattie called the tree ordinance “cumbersome,” and said the township has had difficulty administering and enforcing it.

“There are provisions in the Zoning Ordinance that allow us to accomplish the same thing without the same burden,” he said.

Trustee Al Mansour asked his fellow board members to do a little more homework before altering the status quo.

“It does seem very proscriptive … because of all the specificity,” Mansour said. “I think, at minimum, it needs a thorough going-through.”

However, the trustees that enacted the Tree Ordinance had a reason for wanting to shore up the provisions established in the Zoning Ordinance.

“This wasn’t done on a willy-nilly basis,” Mansour said. “It’s literally 16 pages, nearly 4,000 words. That might give us a little reason to go back and think about this.”

Trustee Ken Thomas also wasn’t ready to change the ordinance.

“This is a very important ordinance that needs to be changed, but I also think it’s quite important that our residents have an opportunity to speak on this,” Thomas said. “I would like to hold this off until we can meet face-to-face with our residents.”

Supervisor Scott Bennett pointed out that the ordinance has been a topic of discussion for about a year.

“We’re in the middle of a shut-down,” he added. “We’re looking at what we can do to help the developers, to help them look at Grand Blanc Township once things open up … to stimulate local development. And we’re potentially facing lawsuits for having this.”

Clerk Cathy Lane added there would still be time to discuss the matter before it is officially adopted.

“This is only a first reading,” she said. “We have to have a second reading after we publish it … before we can adopt it. I think we have the time … between now and the second reading, which is several weeks, and we can do any further study we need or want to do.”

With only Bennett and Lane voting in favor of the first reading, the effort to repeal is now in limbo.

Lattie noted the township previously suspended enforcement of the ordinance. The suspension is expected to continue.