Treasurer presses township planning commission to OK $1.9 million project
Plymouth Township Trustee Chuck Curmi at recent board meeting
Sep. 3, 2013 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Edwards made a lengthy and detailed presentation to the seven-member commission Wednesday as a “staff request.”
The Plymouth Township Board of Trustees’ vote last week to sell bonds to fund $1.9 million in recreation projects came with a few surprises for some township officials.
The Michigan Planning Enabling Act MCL125.3861 of 2008 requires that any such improvement project be approved by the township planning commission before any construction can begin. The project had not yet been presented to the Plymouth Township Planning Commission at the time of the vote on Aug. 20, according to official minutes of the planning body.
During discussion of the bond issue Tuesday, Trustee Chuck Curmi questioned the legality of moving forward with the vote without prior approval from the planning commission. He pointed out to Supervisor Richard Reaume and Treasurer Ron Edwards that such an approval prior to any construction was required by state law.
Edwards said he was not aware of any such requirement and Reaume then called for the vote on the sale of the bonds.
The bond sale was approved by a 4-3 vote of the board members. Curmi, Trustees Bob Doroshewitz and Mike Kelly voted no on the question. There was no motion made to present the plan to the planning commission.
Curmi had previously vocalized his opposition to the borrowing of funds for the project to the board members.
“Just because interest rates are cheap doesn’t mean you have to borrow money,” he said at the meeting.
The planning commission was not scheduled to meet again until the day after the board of trustees approved the sale of the bonds on Tuesday.
While the plan was not on the posted agenda for that Wednesday, Aug. 21 meeting, it was added at the beginning of the meeting and Edwards made a lengthy and detailed presentation to the seven-member commission Wednesday as a “staff request.” He told the commissioners that the board of trustees was not aware of the law until the previous evening and that the approval of the planning commission was needed before any construction could begin.
He prefaced his remarks about the project by telling the commission members that should they not approve the project, it would “go back before the board and we could over- ride” their decision. He detailed the projects included in the proposed plan, including an amphitheater, a year-round pavilion, parking lot improvements, a new entrance for the golf course, a footbridge and path and several other items. He explained that most of, but not all, the improvements were included in the approved recreation and open space plan adopted by the township. No reference was made during the meeting to the project in relation to the township master plan, as is required by state law.
“We are trying to create a great image in this town,” Edwards said. He also characterized some of the proposed expenses as maintenance items the township would have to fund, and said, “Basically, we are going to put in about $2 million in improvements for about $1.5 million.”
The planning commission approved the project as presented at the meeting. Edwards also told the commission that he expected to be back before them with the issue of the golf course entrance presently under discussion.
“We are trying to make it look like a country club turn in,” he said. “We’re working with the county trying to put an island in and expand the parking lot, but those plans are not complete.”
The Michigan Township Association interprets the MCL 125.386 this way: “The Michigan Planning Enabling Act prohibits a township with an approved master plan from constructing or authorizing for construction, in an area covered by the master plan, a street, square, park, playground, public way, ground or other open space, or a public building or other structure unless the township board first submits the proposed public improvements to the planning commission for approval of the “location, character, and extent” of the proposed public improvement. This often-overlooked requirement is intended to ensure that the proposed public improvement conform to the master plan and that the planning commission is aware of the improvements before they are constructed.”
Commissioners questioned the scope of their involvement and the exact parameters of their approval prior to their vote on the issue.
They were informed that their vote was an acknowledgement of the planned improvements and construction and they did not need to consider the financial aspects of the plan.
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