LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Preserve our rural lifestyle now

The urbanization of Livingston County is happening. Suburban creep is turning Brighton and Howell into fifth- and sixth-ring suburbs of Metro Detroit ,and they are starting to resemble Northville and Novi.

The cost of redevelopment in Oakland and Wayne counties is considerably more expensive. With a lack of impact development fees, real estate developers wrongly view Livingston County as their oyster. Our townships have zoning and ordinances in place to protect resources, but they lack teeth without impact fees. Once land is developed, it can never return to its natural state.

We can preserve what is left of our rural and agricultural lifestyles and ensure future developments are kept in struct accordance with our zoning and ordinances.

In Tyrone Township, residents are facing an asphalt plant project, which will have a considerable impact on traffic, and air and water quality. Asphalt is an extremely messy business that needs to be regulated at the highest level and carefully located with zero environmental and residential impacts.

In Genoa Township farmland on Chilson and Crooked Lake roads is targeted by a developer from Missouri with a four-phase campus that will include a rehab center, office buildings, a medical school, and potentially a hospital. This will force taxpayers to pay for new infrastructure. Land banking strategies will force local families to sell or donate their entire farms.

Nearby in Northfield Township, adeveloper wants to build hundreds of densified homes and potentially multi-family housing on a farm that is currently zoned to hold a small fraction of that.

The developers use an old, trusty tool called incremental development. First, they propose an entry level project. Then they approach your neighbors because “it’s only a matter of time, so you should sell now.” Eventually they propose zoning changes to support commercialization. By the time heavy equipment shows up to build new infrastructure paid by the taxpayer, it is too late for the rest of us.

Commercial, industrial, and densified residential projects all have a place somewhere in the area. This is the purpose of zoning. Proper placement with transitional buffers between residential and rural and agricultural areas is intentionally planned. A community defines it zoning to promote commercial and industrial growth while first and foremost preserving the quality of life of residents.

Developers should act as responsible stewards and willing partners with residents. They need to work within the limitations of our zoning standards. They need to stop threatening our lifestyle with their lawyers. Their projects can fit seamlessly if, and only if, they see value in working as a community neighbor.

We would like to see developers put away their tool of incremental development. Other tools exist like land swaps and responsible development for profit and partnering dialogue.

We understand these projects bring jobs and tax-base growth. We understand every property owner has rights, but developers’ rights should not come at the expense of residents’ rights.

Residents need to support each other. Tyrone and Genoa townships both have Facebook groups to share information and preserve our lifestyles. We need to work together to preserve each of our community’s rural and agricultural interests.

In the meantime, this is a call to action for our boards and commissions, and those who serve on them took an oath to act in the best interests of their constituents. This oath is a moral obligation to protect resident’s property by means of ordinances and zoning standards.

If our official cannot uphold their oath of office by putting citizens’ interests first, then we have lost the ability to govern.

Robert Lagana

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