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Buying Time for Benzie ZoningPrint

Thriving Communities | February 15, 2010 | By Shauna Fite

Without planning and zoning services, Benzie County residents’ property values and quality of life are at risk.

It’s been a busy and uncertain six months for local officials in Benzie County. Cuts in revenue continue, forcing officials to make tough decisions on funding priorities. The county planning and zoning department has bore the brunt of these cuts and faces elimination after March 31-just six weeks from now.

While following this issue closely over those six months, I saw lines of communication slowly breaking down and officials drifting farther and farther from a workable plan. Then, at last Thursday’s county planning commission meeting, someone tossed a new option onto the table.

Mike Moorman, Chair of the Colfax Township Board of Trustees and Vice Chair of the Benzie County Planning Commission, suggested keeping the county in charge of planning and zoning for a limited time, functioning at its current, half-time capacity, and asking the seven townships using the service to fund it.

Mr. Moorman will introduce his idea to the Benzie County Board of Commissioners at Tuesday’s (February 16) meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m., at the Government Center in Beulah.

The townships will also have to buy into this idea, literally, which may be a tough sell. But Mr. Moorman has a unique set of eyes: He wears both a township and county hat, and could lead the way to getting such a proposal approved.

This isn’t a long-term solution. It’s a compromise that requires township and county officials to decide whether planning and zoning is a priority for their residents.

I see it as win-win: The townships buy some more time to find the most effective, efficient way to provide these services, and the county is off the hook for funding. The action would prevent a gap in zoning for Benzie residents, protecting the economic value of their properties-and their quality of life.

It also makes sense simply because it just doesn’t make sense to rush into township-by-township zoning when it could cost more time, money, and manpower than simply paying the county to perform these crucial services.

Please let your township and county officials hear from that you think this should be a priority! Click here for a directory of your township and county officials. 

Longtime Benzie County resident Shauna Fite is a policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute. Reach her at shauna@mlui.org.