Lowell Twp forwards fill ordinance to planning commission
The Lowell Township board of trustees had their latest regular meeting at Lowell Township Hall, 2910 Alden Nash SE, on Monday, Dec. 16. The meeting lasted just under two hours and was attended by 14 local residents.
Discussion at the meeting was dominated by a potential “fill ordinance” the township has been working on. According to the document, available to read on the township's website www.twp.lowell.mi.us/proposedadoptedordinances.html, the purpose of the fill ordinance would be “to establish operational, maintenance, performance and reclamation standards for fill activities; to provide for approvals and the licensing thereof; and to establish penalties for violations of this ordinance.”
Those opposed to the zoning ordinance said it would hamper development of businesses in the township, it could leave the township open to a lawsuit and the already-existing noise ordinance should be sufficient to handle any nuisances of that nature.
Lowell Township trustee Steve VanderZiel said he created and headed a committee that investigated the issue and created the fill ordinance. VanderZiel explained that the committee consisted of board members, “dirt moving people” and Lowell Township residents.
“The first meetings went smooth and they went rougher as we went,” VanderZiel said. “Everyone had opinions, some were stronger than others. There was some compromise, there was some non-compromise. [...] My biggest concern was taking rights away from people, from landowners.”
“The proposal coming before you today will stifle growth,” said Greg Forde. “It attempts to regulate private property and land use and really is an overreaction to the real issue that has driven us to this point, which is noise.”
“How do we make sure that the residents and the businesses work cohesively together,” asked Heidi Olesko, who owns a home on Missy's Way behind Timpson Transport, and who served on the fill ordinance committee. “That hasn't happened in the past, but we need it to happen in the future. That was the point of the fill ordinance. I came into it with a lot of good faith, hoping this would work for the future. [...] Clearly we are not all on the same page.”
Residential neighbors of Timpson Transport. 3175 Segwun Ave SE, have been complaining about extremely loud noises, increased truck traffic and drastic changes to the natural landscape as a result of the company's extended transition from an apple orchard to a mining and dumping operation.
“I've done a lot of work to try to absorb the noise,” said Timpson Transport owner John Timpson. “On the back of the pit we're going up so the noise goes over. Hopefully that will take care of some of the problems at Ms. Olesko's. If it doesn't, I don't know what else to do yet.”
Timpson Transport owner Colleen Timpson said that she would like to grow apples like the family did decades ago, but the mining industry is far more lucrative.
“I have socialized with you people,” Timpson said. “We have worked together and have known each other for many, many, many, many years. However, that does not mean you are in my back pocket. Do you understand that? We're friends. This community is based on people that have lived here many, many years. […] I would give anything if that's what we were still doing, growing fruit. God put a beautiful pile of sand underneath those trees. The trees weren't growing, but guess what? The sand was worth a lot more, so we are mining the sand.”
The board voted 6-1 to forward the fill ordinance to the township's planning commission for their review. The sole dissenting vote was from clerk/trustee Monica Burtt. Lowell Township planning commission chair David Simmonds was at the meeting and said that body would most likely take up the issue in April 2020.
The board also listened to a presentation about invasive plant species from Jessie Schulte, manager of the Kent Conservation District. Schulte said that the three most common invasive plants in the Lowell area were oriental bittersweet, phragmites grass and Japanese knotweed.
“We like to joke that we blame Martha Stewart, because she used to make wreaths with [oriental bittersweet],” Schulte said. “They were selling some of these wreaths over here in Ada, and people would just dump them in their yard and then the vines would take over. [...] About 85 percent of our invasives are coming from the ornamental industry.”
The Lowell Township board's next regular meeting will be at Lowell Township hall at 7 pm on Monday, Jan. 20.