The high-wire act of public service




 

 

At a recent Grand Blanc Township Planning Commission meeting, I was once again reminded of the fact our public at large, is for the most part, unfamiliar with many of the legislative processes and procedures that are at work behind the scenes of what is apparent in their day to day lives.

The planning commission, for example, has multiple layers of jurisdiction, this particular one was a Special Land Use hearing, a preliminary step which asks for special permission of a particular use in a particular zoning district.

Other layers include site plan review and site plan approval, which may occur separately or together.

Like journalists, municipal leaders often have to find a treacherous balance between representing resident’s concerns and the opposing party’s concerns—in this case a property developer. On the one hand, the commission must weigh one property owner’s desire for peace and quiet against the other property owner’s desire for return on his investment — both of which are equal rights.

Satisfying these competing interests is simply not always possible — and the commission uses various tools, such as master plans and other ordinances as a basis for decisions which treat each person, property and point of view in a fair and consistent manner.

Decision makers must, within the constraints of the law, allow for development which is consistent with the existing or planned character of the community and reject that which is not. Their job is not to design the site but identify areas of concern for the applicant to address.

Regardless of how many people show up to oppose or support a project, the commission must represent the longterm interests of entire community, not just those at the public hearing. Also, just being opposed to, or not liking a project is not a valid reason for rejection; and as has been said, must be balanced against the rights of the developer.

A roomful of people who show up to oppose a project should not be the only reason for denial. Approvals and denials must be thoroughly supported, clearly stating how the ordinance standards were or were not met.

Yes, as someone mentioned at this particular meeting, coming to a meeting is, technically, being involved; however, one meeting alone does not give a resident the “big picture” of what the commission’s job is and what restrictions they have to work under.

The role of the public is to provide information to the decision makers, not dictate their decision. One resident asked if something other than a gas station had been considered.

Another resident said, quite accurately, that it isn’t needed, as there are other stations close by. However, the commercial property owner again has a right to do what he feels will get him the best return on his investment.

Some complained it would draw crime from people outside the neighborhood. I think it’s highly unlikely a busy, thriving business would draw more crime than a vacant store front.

It may be difficult for the homes immediately next door, but the commission requires screening, and the plaza was obviously there when most of those people probably bought their homes. It is too late now to cry “foul”.

I find it hard to believe a business owner would set out to intentionally poison people— not that it can’t happen; however, I doubt, based on evidence given in the meeting that this station would be a hazard to the neighborhood. pschmidt@mihomepaper.com


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