When the Dexter Township Board of Trustees met on July 21, the board approved paying to send Zach Michels, the township’s Director of Planning and Zoning, to a Michigan Township Association’s course called Hot Topics in Planning and Zoning. The cost of the course is $81 plus driving expenses to and from Frankenmuth, where the course is being offered on August 11. Why is the expenditure worthwhile?
“Planning is one of those fields where you can never know everything because what you know is always changing,” says Michels. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can cost the community a lot of money in a lawsuit.”
Michels says that the township has been good about supporting such training. This will be the second Michigan Townships Association meeting he will attend.
“It’s specific to things that are of interest to townships and you get to be in a room with folks who have similar interests,” he says.
More than 150 people are expected to attend the August 11 MTA training in Frankenmuth.
“The workshop is a great way for township officials and members of the planning and zoning team to hear from our expert speakers about these important issues as well as network with their peers,” says Jenn Fiedler, Knowledge Center Communications Director for the MTA. “It’s important for local government officials to be updated on how state and federal laws authorize or limit local regulations, to gain factual insights into often emotionally charged subjects, and to learn practical approaches to ensuring that their regulations and enforcement appropriately reflect their communities’ land use goals and needs.”
The topics at the August 11 MTA meeting include Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act, code enforcement, wind farms, generally acceptable agricultural management practices and mineral extraction.
“Marijuana has been a tricky topic,” says Michels. “We had a moratorium to let the law settle out, and since then we haven’t taken action on it. I need to get myself knowledgeable.”
He says that without code enforcement, ordinances are meaningless, and he can learn a lot from other townships’ successes and failures.
Michels, who had experience with wind farms when he worked in Indiana, says it’s not a particular issue for Dexter Township because there aren’t many flat, open areas.
“As far as generally acceptable agricultural management practices go, we are a fringe community getting more and more development but we still have a lot of agriculture, so we’re right at that point where there’s potential conflict between the two communities,” he says. “It’s good to get a refresher course on it.”
Michels says there is nothing in the pipeline as far as mineral extraction goes in Dexter Township but that you have to be prepared. He cites the controversy that Lyndon Township has dealt with regarding the McCoig sand and gravel mining operation.