There’s a developing story in Allegan County, home of the Saugatuck Dunes that I have been writing about. A Michigan law passed in 2008 called the Michigan Planning Enabling Act PA 33 of 2008 (discussed at length HERE [pdf]) requires county Planning Commissions to be created by Ordinance rather than by a Resolution and this must be done by July 1, 2011. Additionally, it requires Planning Commissions to have a Master Plan. It is also giving counties the option of doing away Planning Commissions entirely (and, thereby, their Master Plan.)
Based on minutes from various commissions in Allegan County, it is clear that there is an interest on the part of the County Administrator, Rob Sarro, and others to do away with the Planning Commission entirely. He appears to be using fiscal reasons as the excuse despite Allegan County doing fairly well at the moment.
The question is why? Why do away with the Planning Commission? Could it be to avoid confrontation with developer and millionaire Aubrey McClendon as he continues his drive to build an extensive development in the Saugatuck Dunes? Could they actually be working in concert with him to help his efforts along?
The absence of a Planning Commission and a Master Plan would certainly help in all of these directions. Tonight is a meeting of the Allegan County Board of Commissioners.
A few questions that beg to be answered:
- Will the Board of Commissioners (BoC) amend their agenda and eliminate the Planning Commission tonight as some fear?
- Why did the BoC notify only Townships in Allegan County (except for Lee Township for some odd reason) but not the cities or villages about their plans to eliminate the Planning Commission?
- Did Aubrey McClendon’s Freedom of Information Act request to the County Planning Commission two years ago (which corresponds with the beginning of discussions about this effort) have anything thing do with the push to eliminate the Planning Commission?
- What role does Joyce Watts, the County Clerk whose son works for Aubrey McClendon, have to play in this decision given her position on the BoC?
- Why hasn’t the County made any public announcements about this impending and momentous decision, held hearings, or solicited input from County residents?
- Is there a statewide push underway by the Snyder administration and supporters to do away with Planning Commissions across the state to help facilitate development and eliminate the “hurdle” of public review?
I plan to dig more into this issue, particularly with regard to a broader statewide push. It’s imperative that residents of Michigan pay close attention to this issue. Find out what the plans are for YOUR county and ask questions, demand transparency. We also need to pay particular attention to counties like Allegan who hold the keys to shorefront development. Our Great Lakes shorelines are beautiful public resources, there for the enjoyment of all of our state’s residents in the eyes of some. They are lucrative development opportunities to be exploited for financial gain for others. And the elimination of County Planning Commissions benefits the latter far more than the former.
I’m just sayin’…