2012-10-25 / Opinion

Clark Twp. Ordinance Review Was Not A Waste Of Time


To the Editor:

This letter is in response to the comments made by Paul Smith in the October 18 letter to the editor. I have been a Clark Township trustee and Planning Commission member for the past four years and worked with both groups developing the many ordinances needed for the township. The prior township board hired a firm from downstate to assist the planning commission with this task. Upon completion of the ordinances, they came before the township board for review and acceptance.

As the township board began the review, it became apparent that many of the details within the ordinances were “boilerplate” wording from some downstate ordinance and did not fit well with our area. We found them to be way too restrictive for the general public as well as for any small business wishing to locate in Clark Township. We felt the reach of our local government was far too overboard. Some examples of this overreach were: 1) If you owned a large parcel of property behind road front parcels but did not own a large stretch of road frontage, you could not develop (or even build on) that parcel. 2) A permit was required to build a small “sun deck” in your own back yard or for a level area around a bonfire pit. 3) Restrictions for rebuilding old boathouses made it far more difficult to do, when we should be encouraging this sort of development.

These are only a few examples of the many flaws we found throughout the ordinances that seemed to stifle economic growth and severely restrict the ability for people to manage and develop their own property. We did not fault the planning commission because they were being led by a “professional” they trusted and the entire township board was not initially in favor of this lengthy review, as Mike Miller made very clear in the beginning. Mike had served on the planning commission that developed the ordinances and pushed at first for us to adopt them but later realized the benefit of our thorough scrutiny. For Paul to mention that Mike Miller wants to be “in control” of everything is just not true. Mike has been a team player all through this process and it was the rest of the board that forced the issue.

We made many significant changes and developed a “civil infraction ordinance” to make them enforcable. For this reason, we felt the need to have legal review of our final documents. Our township attorney was willing to charge us a fraction of the projected cost if we were willing to let him work on them as he had free time. This resulted in the 10 months review time, but we feel the savings are well worth the wait. This did not affect the issuance of any land use permits, which are required regardless of ordinances, nor are we aware of any adverse effects this delay has had on any development.

I feel the town board did the public a great service taking the time, getting advice from professionals, and working together to adopt a set of ordinances that we all can live with.

Gary Wellnitz


Clark Township citizen and trustee

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