A new Township Planner arrives, Dignan elected PC Chair.   Discussions: PC Bylaws, Church conditional use, RLUIPA, Parks & Rec Master Plan, RTM zoning change, Manufacturer interested in RTM district site.

Tonight the role of Planner was played by the President of McKenna Associates, Phillip McKenna.  Was the $130/hour Senior Vice President assigned to our humble jurisdiction already engaged?  Is McKenna scouting out for himself just what's wrong in Northfield Township? 

Ken Dignan has displaced Marlene Chockley as Planning Commission Chairperson, elected by a 4:3 vote.  Iaquinto, Dignan, Stanalajczo, and Roman voting Yes.  Chick, Cousino, and Chockley voting No.  LiveVideo of the vote.

Janet Chick remains the P.C. Vice-Chair.   Mark Stanalajczo remains P.C. Secretary.   Sam Iaquinto remains the representative to Parks & Recreation.  Marlene Chockley is the new ZBA representative. 

Bylaws revisions were again discussed.  Commissioners voted to forward questions about a set of Bylaws issues to the Township Attorney.  Stanalajczo dissented.

The Church of the Living Water conditional use issue was on tonight's Agenda.  Chockley asked Planner McKenna to survey the issues.  He explained Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA) issues, 1st amendment issues, the desireability of tax exempt property in downtown business districts, etc...

"Because churches don't pay any taxes and especially downtown,

they're seen as subtracting from the tax base." - Phillip McKenna

Why does RLUIPA matter?  Here's an example from nearby Pittsfield Township.  Last October, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an RLUIPA action against Pittsfield Township for unlawfully denying the zoning necessary to site an Islamic Academy on a 26 acre parcel.  Pittsfield Township had previously granted zoning changes necessary to build two Christian schools. 

“The law prohibits the government from imposing land use regulations that substantially burden religious exercise unless there is a compelling government interest and uses the least restrictive means of doing so.  We filed this lawsuit to protect the right of all Americans to practice their religion and receive the religious instruction and education of their choice.” - U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade

Here is the Complaint, United States of America v. Pittsfield Charter Township.

Here are the DOJ's RLUIPA overview and the DOJ's RLUIPA Policy Statement/FAQ.   McQuade is the smiling face in this Free Press report on the case.

Manager Fink presented the new Parks and Recreation Master Plan.  Sam Iaquinto, a member of the Parks & Rec board, voiced his strong support.  Why is that important?  The Parks & Rec master plan reaffirms the current Township Master Plan's emphasis on Natural Features and Natural Beauty.  Unfortunately the Township has little or no money to spend on Parks & Recreation.

An RTM Zoning Change to raise the percentage of floor space permitted for manufacturing was to be discussed.  It was noticed at this meeting that the discussion had been improperly or misleadingly public-noticed.  That will be corrected and consideration of the issue rescheduled for the first meeting in March. 

Meanwhile, we have finally learned the reason for the RTM change.  It was requested some months ago by Manager Fink. At the same time he asked for permission to offer a huge tax abatement to an unnamed company interested in locating in Northfield Township.  He wouldn't name the company.  In the February 9th Manager's Report, it gets a name:  Arvin Sango, a Toyota Supplier.


Here's the LiveAgenda, the easiest way to watch the Agenda items you're interested in.

  • Click here to view or download the Parks and Recreation 2015 Master Plan (very large - 9.3 MB)