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Lincoln planners organize; McLean takes reins

LINCOLN TOWNSHIP – A Paris Township resident was named chair of the new Lincoln Township Planning Commission this week.

Robert McLean – who also sits on the Paris Township Planning Commission and is vice chair of the Huron County Planning Commission – takes the reins in Lincoln.

The remaining four members of the commission are from Lincoln Township. It is legal for one township planner not be an elector of that local unit of government.

Planners at the organizational meeting on Tuesday also elected Dave Bambach as vice chair.

Bambach is the former Kinde zoning administrator.

And after much deliberation, Ken Weber was elected secretary by a 4-1 vote. Weber cast the “no” vote.

Other members of the commission are Ivan Tomlinson and Patricia Weber, who is Ken’s sister-in-law, and also the Lincoln Township treasurer.

As the commission discussed who should serve as secretary, Ken Weber said that he didn’t have a computer with which to keep files or communicate by email, but that he does have a tablet.

Tomlinson refused to serve as treasurer, saying, “That’s not me.”

The commission also discussed naming Ken’s wife as deputy secretary. He said he would talk to her about it.

Before Ken was elected, McLean commented that Patricia “would do a great job.”

Patricia said that she would help whoever got the position.

“I just don’t want to be responsible for it,” she said, adding that she has enough on her plate with her job and as township treasurer.

During public comment, township Clerk Irvin Kanaski said that according to the conference call that he had with Supervisor Melvin Drake and the township’s attorney, the only things that need to be taken care of early on are appointing members and establishing bylaws.

Three residents attended the two-hour meeting: Kanaski, Drake and Carl Duda, a member of the Huron County Planning Commission.

Those present also listened to McLean read the proposed bylaws, which had been composed by the township’s attorney.

McLean said that he found the bylaws, as written, restrictive.

“You’ve got to cover everything, but it’s a matter of how restrictive you want to be,” he said.

The planners will review the bylaws and further discuss them at a meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Lincoln Township Hall.

The remaining meetings this year were scheduled for Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.

Four meetings annually are required by law. But McLean said that he had consulted with the Michigan Townships Association. Officials there advised McLean that the commission did not have to abide by that rule in 2017, since it formed more than halfway through the year.

Planning commissioners will be compensated $35 per meeting.

Huron County is one of 14 in the state that has county zoning. The remaining 69 counties are fully comprised of self-zoned municipalities.

McLean said it would be best to issue site permits only, and to hire an administrator. The county would be responsible for permits regarding issues such as plumbing and electricity.

McLean added that Lake Township is the only one in Huron County that is both self-zoned and has its own system of issuing all building permits.

Planners noted that Lincoln Township is 70 percent agricultural.

The planners will also be responsible for adopting a master plan, as required by law. This would include a future land use map.

The township will also need a zoning board of appeals, which will likely have three members.

McLean said there might be a survey circulated to get the public’s opinion on how the township should develop. Residents will also be welcome to speak at planning meetings, he added.

“That’s the nice thing about taking over your own zoning. You can start with a clean sheet of paper,” he said.

Eventually, McLean said, it would be a good idea to review the county future land use map, as well as consult with neighboring municipalities on planning objectives.

“They (future land use maps) are a road map into the future,” McLean said.

Lincoln first moved to become self-zoned about a year ago. At the same time, the county was considering whether to allow a wind development overlay zone in the township, as proposed by DTE Energy.

According to records in the Huron County Register of Deeds office, all but one person on the Lincoln Township Board of Trustees have wind contracts.

Trustee Timothy Pawlowski does not, while Drake, Patricia Weber, Kanaski and Trustee John Wisneski have contracts.

Each of the four is listed has having a memo of standard utility easement with DTE.

The township board sent a letter dated March 16, 2016, addressed to the county’s Building and Zoning office.

The letter’s two sentences read: “We feel that Huron County has done our part as far as Green Energy. We feel that no additional turbines should be allowed in Huron County.”

Drake later told the Tribune that since the county continued to entertain the notion of allowing a wind overlay zone in the township after the letter was received, Lincoln officials decided to pursue taking zoning back.

A legal fund was started, and the township hired Grand Rapids law firm Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC to assist in the process of becoming self-zoned.

At least $30,000 was taken from the general fund and set aside for zoning over several months. At least $1,100 was donated to the fund by unknown donors. Township officials have refused to disclose donors’ names.

Meanwhile, the fate of both the proposed wind park and creation of the Lincoln planning commission became issues in a May referendum.

The wind park failed, while the planning commission survived the referendum.