Rezoning opposition wins vote for Feb. 28
December 5, 2005 —
After dead skunks, a referendum petition, and fissures in the local community over new development, Kochville Township voters will decide on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006 whether or not to approve the rezoning of 13.98 acres on the corner of Pierce and Davis roads from single-family residential to mixed-use development.
Previously, the Kochville Township Planning Commission, the Saginaw County Metropolitan Planning Commission, and the Kochville Township Board of Trustees all voted unanimously to approve the rezoning. Developer Campus Village was looking at breaking ground on the Cardinal Townhomes expansion in the summer of 2006. Yet concerns from local residents, led by SVSU professor of social work Stephen J. Yanca, that the project was a financial windfall for developers at the expense of local residents could ultimately derail the project.
Yanca, as well as residents David Sanchez and Gary Hornfeld, filed a petition for a referendum on October 24, with the signatures of 260 Kochville residents. However, legal technicalities nearly left the referendum dead in the water. Township attorney Thomas J. McGraw previously stated that the petition circulated by the residents "had flaws fatal to the petition according to the state of Michigan." The major concerns included the lack of correct font sizes on the petitions, as well as the lack of a zip code column.
The attorney for the petitioners, James Hammond, argued that the "referendum is a right of constitutional magnitude that is applied to all Michigan citizens," and the democratic process cannot be subverted by a technical flaw.
Despite the flaws, Township Clerk George A. Schnepf said that the petition had 215 valid signatures, more than the 129 signatures needed to force the rezoning issue onto the ballot.
"There are a number of flaws with the petition itself," Schnepf said, noting the signatures alone were the important factor in determining the petition's validity.
Kochville Township Supervisor Kenneth P. Bayne, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the rezoning, said that while the petition did not meet the necessary requirement for the law, it did meet the necessary requirement for a referendum.
Bayne feels that the referendum is unnecessary, and will ultimately cost township taxpayers a good deal of money.
"I don't believe that the referendum is justified when the Board of Trustees follows the purpose and intent of the Master Plan," Bayne said.
Yanca countered by noting that the vote is an example of a democracy.
"If the people side with us, it certainly wouldn't be a waste of money," Yanca said. "Since when is letting people vote on something a waste of time or money?"