By Kelsey Banas
The Meridian Times
The Planning Commission motioned to withdraw the rezoning of land request first initiated in Meridian Township at the meeting on Aug. 11.
The requested rezone of township-owned land is approximately 16 acres from C-2, commercial, to RR, rural residential, located on the east side of Saginaw Highway between Lake Lansing and Newton roads.
The Planning Commission initiated a rezoning of some of one of the Township properties, which is a land preserve. The commission held a public hearing where the Land Preservation Advisory Board met and discussed the rezoning and was opposed to it.
Planning Commissioner Lynn Hildebrandt voted against the rezoning and said, “The mandate implies that it is to preserve lands with unique qualities for the township. It’s about more than just preventing commercial development, it’s about preserving the property, which may bring properties to have impact on them.”
Land can be acquired through direct sale, donation, inheritance, grants and tax foreclosure. Often the land acquired is sold or donated from the adjacent property owner.
“We weren’t trying to take away any neighbors’ rights. If the taxpayers paid money to acquire this land we need to protect their investment,” said Hildebrandt.
The Planning Commission withdrew its request to change the land to residential at the Oct. 13 meeting. After the withdrawal, the adjacent property that is also commercial will have a small setback.
Setbacks are how close some things can be to roads and property lines that are deemed to need protection. Scott- Craig said if a commercial property is next to a residential property the commercial property has to back up 100 feet, chewing up a lot of land.
Representing the preservation board, Julie Brixie said the board opposes the rezoning because they feel that putting this type of zoning change on a land preserve would create a precedent making future land acquisitions difficult.
The rezoning process consists of the Planning Commission holding a public hearing, making a recommendation and then sending it up to the Township Board for the ultimate decision.
The Planning Commission was operating under the false assumption that this was the only preserve that was zoned commercial said Brixie.
The Planning Commission withdrew its initiation of the request otherwise they would have had to make a motion to deny it and then make that recommendation to the Township Board to deny the rezoning the board itself had initiated.
Planning Commissioner John Scott-Craig also voted to withdraw the request and said commissioners wanted to have a way of looking at the future land use map and have a category for land preservation so if someone is looking for a place to build a business that land is off limits.
“The fundamental issue is it seemed funny to have a land preservation property purchased at the township to be kept undeveloped in perpetuity and at the same time have it zoned for commercial uses,” said Scott-Craig.
Scott-Craig said commissioners also thought there should be a zoning category because they want these lands protected, but it turns out that if you put it into a current zoning category it creates problems because of setbacks.
“We’re not trying to make problems we are trying to help. We may revisit this issue some time later, but before we do that we will be talking to them, get on the same page and get this done right,” said Scott-Craig.