Saline Township Declines Invitation to Join Nature Preserve Efforts

 01/12/2016 - 22:52
in

Saline Township attorney Fred Lucas talks to Neil Bohnett and Taylor Jacobsen at the Township Board meeting.

All five board members were present at the January meeting of the Saline Township Board, including Bob Prehn who has been ill. Also present were Fred Lucas, Neil Bohnett, Mike Callegari and Taylor Jacobsen.

The issue generating the most discussion was whether the township should sign onto the Memorandum of Understanding for the former Burg land on Saline-Milan Road that promoters would like to make into a nature preserve.

Jim Peters, of the City of Saline, did not show up as previously to support the proposal, so Jacobsen, a township resident, took on that role. A few of the board members raised concerns in opposition to the plan and Lucas explained the legal ramifications.

“I’ve been a pretty big proponent for some time and I was kind of happy to see what happened,” Jacobsen said. “Dave Rhoads bought that land so he could eventually turn it into a public grounds. We’ve cleaned it up considerably. It is beautiful now; it’s a beautiful preserve.”

Supervisor Jim Marion and Robert Marion raised the concern that just as hunting is not allowed within 450 feet of a dwelling, the presence of public trails may limit hunting nearby.

Jim Peters researched this after the last meeting and told Jim Marion that there would be no such limitation.

When Robert Marion expressed a concern that this could disrupt hunting all the way down the river, Jacobsen pointed out that the trails proposed are only in the 16 acre preserve with connections to the north. He said that any effort to build a trail along the river, as Marion seemed to fear, is extremely unlikely.

There is, in fact, no proposal to build a trail along the river in the Memorandum of Understanding, but there is one line that proposes cleaning up the river to make it more navigable.

“I’ve got river property on both sides of it, so it runs through the middle of my property and I’m not opposed to the canoeing, but it’s almost impossible,” Jacobsen said. “There’s so many deadfalls in there.”          

Bob Prehn was concerned about trespassers. He suggested that people might take short cuts through properties adjacent to the preserve in order to get there more easily.

Taylor said that would be true for any public land, but it would not be very likely on this land.

Taylor also told of the greater vision for the preserve – that it would be a link in a continuous pathway connecting Mill Pond Park through Curtiss Park, Salt Springs Park and the new preserve to Wilderness Park.

“It’s a tremendous possibility, in my estimation, for the residents in the area,” Jacobsen said.

Jim Marion said that from his conversations with York Supervisor John Stanowski and Saline City Councilman Rhoads, it seemed that the project would proceed whether or not Saline Township agreed to it. Lucas agreed.

“There’s no financial obligation for any of the municipalities, as you know,” Lucas said. “This is not a financial decision . . . The truth of the matter is that it’s really a private non-profit program. It really doesn’t involve the governments all that much . . . Your involvement in this has little or no impact at all.”

Jacobsen said that signing onto the memorandum would show support to those who have been working on this and would provide for township representation, so the township would have a say in decisions concerning the preserve.

When Jim Marion finally called for a motion to support or deny signing the agreement, nobody spoke. No motion is equivalent to a no vote. Lucas said the issue could still be revisited at a later time of need be.

Township Won’t Join River Raisin Watershed

In a related matter, the board chose not to become members of the River Raisin Watershed Council. They are invited yearly and routinely decline on the basis that the River is outside of the township (although the watershed is within the township). Membership would also have required a payment of at least $100.

Appointments

A number of more routine issues were also discussed. Since several township officials’ terms were expiring it was necessary to re-appointment them.

Laurie Leinbach, Richard Zahn and Trudy Feldkamp were reappointed to the Planning Commission. Carrie DeJonghe was reappointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Jim Marion said that the board needed to approve new poverty exemption guidelines issued by the Washtenaw County Assessor’s office. The Board had no copy of the guidelines, however, only a copy of the application form.

Kelly Marion said she would obtain a copy of the regulations and Jim said that they probably did not change much since no copy had been sent to them. So the board went ahead and voted unanimously to approve the new guidelines.

Drywall Business Falls Through at Dell & US 12

The Planning Commission met a week earlier. The primary issue concerned the application by Mike and Kerry Welt to locate a drywall business at the corner of Dell Road and U.S 12.

Apparently the deal has fallen through because of a zoning problem. The owner of the land had not revealed to the prospective lessees that it was zoned agricultural. The Board discussed whether rezoning was possible.

Recycle Bin - For Township Residents Only

Paul Gumtow reported to Jim Marion that he has found a person who would make a sign for the recycle bin outside Township Hall. The bin is an important asset to the township and the township spends about $12,000 a year for the materials to be picked up weekly.

Because of this, Gumtow would like to limit use of the bin to township residents. The sign would read, “Saline Township Residents Only. No Dumping.”

The board discussed whether more could be added to discourage abuse such as the words “violators will be prosecuted.” Lucas said that he would need to draft an ordinance to make it illegal for nonresidents to use the bin. This would make it a civil infraction and the sign could read, “Violators will be ticketed.”

The next Township Board meeting will be Monday, February 8, at 7 p.m.

Robert Conradi
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.