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Townships Stand Firm on Growth

August 1, 2001 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Something big was bound to happen in northern Michigan given all the conversations, public meetings, outside experts, technical reports, new citizen organizations, and momentum gathering behind Smart Growth controls on runaway development. The big news came this spring when two rural townships each stood by their community’s visions for human-scale growth in the face of mega development.

Bear Creek Township, south of Petoskey, upheld its conservation-based master plan in April and formally rejected a 91-acre mall, shopping, business, and housing development. The proposal would have brought intense pavement, traffic, and city service needs to land that the township had already decided not to supply with sewer and water.

“I feel confident that we followed the process and that the decision was fair,” said Dennis Keiser, the Bear Creek supervisor who joined the majority on April 18 in the historic 3-2 decision.

Close on Bear Creek’s heels is Acme Township, east of Traverse City, which may yet reject a 200,000 square-foot superstore, gas station/convenience store, and immense parking lot that the Meijer company wants to build on an 80-acre field along M-72.

A majority of the township’s planning commissioners oppose the project and were prepared in April to vote it down because the project’s large scale does not fit the community’s new master plan. Meijer convinced township officials to give the company more time to redesign the development. But in June, after Meijer failed to submit a revised plan, the planning commission gave the company 90 more days to finalize the design or face an automatic denial.

In court
It is not clear, given strong public resistance to its project, whether Meijer will submit a new design or abandon the Acme store altogether.

In Bear Creek Township, however, it is apparent that developers do not accept the community’s decision.

Strathmore Development, the East Lansing-based development company involved, filed suits in federal and state courts asserting that the township violated the company’s constitutional right to fully use its property.

Bear Creek officials respond that state law provides townships with clear authority to decide appropriate uses of land.

CONTACT(S): Dennis Keiser, Bear Creek Township Supervisor, 231-347-1311, <dennisk@gtlakes.com>; Rickie Bradford, Concerned Citizens of Acme Township, 231-938-2748, <rickiebay@aol.com>.

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