BROOKFIELD TOWNSHIP — The Brookfield Township Board voted this week to give its zoning control to Huron County, firming up a decision the board had made last winter, but going against a November ballot issue.
Last February, the township board approved a zoning amendment abolishing the local zoning ordinance and transferring zoning authority to the county. Officials said there weren’t enough residents interested in being a part of the township’s planning commission or zoning board of appeals.
In March, the Huron County Planning Commission and the Huron County Board of Commissioners each approved the transfer of the Brookfield Township zoning to the county. The transfer was to take place March 27.
But a notice of intent for a referendum was filed on March 23. After the petitions were submitted, the issue was put on hold until the Nov. 6 election. On that night a proposal seeking to allow the county to zone the township failed, 119-118.
Township Supervisor A. Charles Timmons said then that the board might have to vote again to give control to the county if it did not get enough people to serve on the planning commission and zoning board of appeals.
Timmons said there were enough residents interested in being on one of the two bodies since the election, but that the board still voted in favor of giving control to the county. He said he could have lived with either decision, but that he voted to keep control local.
“… That’s how it should have stayed,” Timmons said. “The residents of Brookfield Township voted to keep local zoning. … That’s why they have elections.”
Township Treasurer Ervin Haley voted in favor of turning zoning control over to the county.
He said he felt campaign advertising encouraging voters to say no to statewide initiatives may have confused some voters on local issues, making the difference in a close election.
“It was a difference of one vote,” Haley said. “I would venture to say we did not go against the will of the people. We honestly believe that … it affected our proposal.”
Haley said interviews of potential zoning board and planning commission members that were requested in December had not taken place. He worried about the township’s speed in the process, and that even if they had gotten the two necessary bodies filled, members would still not have the legal and zoning expertise of their counterparts at the county level – especially when it comes to wind energy.
“As the township stands right now, It has the highest investments it’s ever made,” Haley said. “The wind industry is ready to start in Brookfield Township as soon as we get some things in order.”
Jeff Smith, director of the Huron County Building and Zoning Office, said that RES America’s Pheasant Run Wind Energy Overlay District had already been established in Brookfield Township, and that further decisions related to it would belong to the county.
He said that the county is bound by statute to honor any township’s request to relinquish its zoning rights over to them.
Smith that it has become more common for townships to give up their zoning control to the county, as state regulations have made it harder for townships to make zoning decisions, and it is more difficult to get the necessary volunteers and avoid favoritism.
Brookfield is the 16th township that has relinquished its zoning control to the county.
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