March 18, 2019  Note by Jim Nelson

This was once my favorite article.  It linked to a legal note on Township Attorney Paul Burns' decisive victory over Grand Sakwa.  The links were provided by Kurt Schindler of MSU. 

In 2017, Kurt retired and his amazing collection of planning and zoning links has vanished.  Reading between the lines it seems that Michigan's interest in educating its citizens with the tools of planning have vanished as well. 


The remains of Kurt Schindler's article collection

MSU Land Use Education Services   ??

Greening Michigan Institute Government and Public Policy First point of contact geography


MSU Extension Citizen Planner Program 

Planning and Zoning Center at MSU

Faculty & Staff

There are no people at this time !!


3-18-2019:  None of the below links work.

Kurt Schindler has organized a deep collection of Land Use and Planning information at his Michigan State University website.  Recently I found the legal abstract of Northfield Township's win over Grand/Sakwa.  (Kudos to Township Attorney Paul Burns.)

Selected Planning and Zoning Decisions: Low Density Zoning is not a Takings.  Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published No. 305594, 2014 Mich. App. LEXIS 220, February 4, 2014) Case Name: Grand/Sakwa of Northfield, LLC v. Township of Northfield

Click here to view or download the full abstract.  The case is on page 8.


For more perspective on Planning, visit Kurt Schindler's MSU Land Use website.


Social networks can create the illusion that something is common when it is actually rare.

The majority illusion is the phenomenon in which an individual comes to believe that a behavior or attribute of most of his or her friends is shared by the population outside that circle of friends.  Even though it is rare in the population as a whole, a minority opinion can be believed to be extremely popular.

This is what drives the attempts to undermine the Master Plan.  A small clique of people talk mostly to each other. Because they are willing to allow development anywhere it will go, they convince themselves and a few others that this is a widely held goal.  Nothing will shake their beliefs.  They see only what they want to see.  They don't stop talking to anyone with an opposing viewpoint - but they do stop listening.



Northfield Township's 2012 Master Plan is viewable as a slideshow here on SlideShare.


  • Future Land Use planning: p39 (slide 49)
  • Farmland Classification Map: p68 (slide 78)
  • The School District Map: p70 (slide 80)
  • Planning Fair comments on the Master Planning Process: p73 (slide 83)
  • Results of the 2010 Community Survey: p91 (slide 101)
On page 39 you will find Southwest Sub-Area 3 - where Biltmore has its 9 optioned parcels.
For this area, here are the "Development Strategies" (some partial quotes, some complete):
  • Preserve open space, woodlands and natural features....
  • Preserve remaining farmland as active farms...
  • ...require clustered development....implementing policies regarding tree preservation...
  • Direct non-agricultural uses away from the areas...ideally situated and conditions for agriculture.
  • Discourage extensions of public sewer service...
  • Establish programs that maintain the viability of agricultural products....
  • Preserve open space and natural features....
  • Ensure that new residential development is compatible in density and character with existing residences and neighborhoods in the immediate area. (complete)
  • Allow for a mix of service, office & residential in the northwest corner (by WLHS, not at Joy Road)
  • Coordinate with state & Washtenaw county for farmland preservation. (complete)
  • Coordinate with Washtenaw county for parkland and open space acquisition and development (complete).
So there you have it.  Preservation, not development. 
That's the vision.
How does Biltmore fit in?  It doesn't.

The Planning Commission consulting firm Carlisle Wortman billed Northfield Township's citizens $35,184.53 for work on our current Township Master Plan, the result of several years of work by our Planning Commission and which was accepted and approved by our Township Board of Trustees in 2012. 

That $35,184.53 and more, since we haven't factored in the cost of all the Planning Commission meetings, will be thrown away if the Asphalt Addicts have their way.


You can read the Master Plan here, on Slideshare.

Below are Carlisle-Wortmann's invoices for their work on the Master Plan, dated 2010 through 2012, uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act Request. 

Planning Commission Chairperson Chockley penned this brief explanation of our most important local issue, which our local paper news outlet couldn't or wouldn't make space or time to print.  She mailed it to Neighbors who have written to her, so I am reprinting it here.

To Build or Not to Build, That is the Question. . .
Marlene Chockley, Chair
Northfield Township Planning Commission
Last June, the Northfield Township Planning Commission received a letter from a developer who has assembled just over 460 acres of land in the southwest corner of the Township. His hope is to tap into the sewer service provided by the Township and build a residential development. If there were no unbuildable portions of that acreage, potentially up to 1475 homes might be possible.
However, there are many significant challenges to realizing that potential. The land is zoned and master planned Agriculture which allows only one home per five acres. If an open space development is proposed preserving over half of the acreage as natural or recreational, clusters the homes, employs design excellence, and accesses paved roads, among other attributes, a density bonus of up to 150% can be obtained, thus one home per two acres in a best case scenario. Of course, many considerations must be addressed in the site plan stage, but this type of development could be done today. It is the property owner’s right under the existing zoning.
To increase that housing density, the zoning would need to be changed. While the owner could petition for a higher density zoning, a major determination for whether or not to grant that change is prescribed by the Master Plan. The Master Plan is the product of two years’ work gathering necessary background information, collecting public opinion through a comprehensive survey and two visioning/planning sessions, then developing the document and holding a public hearing. The resulting vision for development was recommended to the Board of Trustees by the Planning Commission and adopted July 10, 2012.
The Master Plan is not a static document; it can be amended if conditions change. However, because of the importance of this guiding document, amendments are not to be made quickly or in secret.
While the 460 acres are not currently master planned for the potential intensity, the Commission has defined a study area and is considering the positive and negative impacts of such a development. If the Commission determines that there is reason to consider a Master Plan amendment, many avenues for public participation will be employed to obtain a broad and representative view of the needs, wants, and concerns of our citizens. We expect that the Board of Trustees will approve the funds necessary to carry out public workshops and a scientific survey before any change to the Master Plan is actually proposed. This is an indispensable step which respects all citizens of the Township and their important role in the process.
Beyond that, several notices are required by law. Amendments require a minimum of six weeks for comment by neighboring jurisdictions and other entities. Any amending language and/or future land use map must be publicly available that entire time and a public hearing must be held with a minimum 15-day advance notice published in the Ann Arbor News. Stay tuned.