After an efficient movement through a full agenda of old business, a lack of unanimity was evident as the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees took up new business on June 13.
In response to the proposal to join a regional planning commission within the Saline Sustainability Circle, Trustee Michael Yi expressed concern about a power grab.
“For one group to dictate how to use our land in a blanket policy I don’t see the benefit in doing that,” Yi said. “Eventually turning all authority over to this group -- I think that’s what they want.”
Supervisor Mandy Grewal noted that she has received some negative feedback on the planning commission proposal. Some have suggested that a regional authority may push lucrative development projects into urban areas, possibly shortchanging the rural areas. Nevertheless she supports regional planning.
Trustee Gerald Krone supported the regional authority, brushing aside concerns about loss of autonomy.
“I’m supportive of this,” Krone said. “I think that there is benefit in agreeing on regional plans, that we can’t all just act in isolation of each other.”
He also noted how unification of multiple entities has been effective elsewhere in blocking certain kinds of unwanted development.
Decisions on joining the regional commission will be made later.
Difference of Opinion on "Spice" Ban
The board welcomed Pittsfield Police Director Matthew Harshberger to speak about a Southeast Michigan initiative to ban the legal synthetic marijuana drug K2, also know as “spice.” Harshberger noted that the Washtenaw County Health Department has authority to ban the sale of this product and has declared their intent to do so.
Pittsfield and other local police departments have cooperated in reporting stores selling the drug to the health department. Retailers have been very cooperative in removing the product, he said.
In the meantime, a bill has been sent to Gov. Rick Snyder that would criminalize selling of K2 with a sentence of four years in prison. This could become law as soon as July 1.
Krone noted how rapidly this ban has come together in the aftermath of a recent death caused by K2. He said he was glad that this was being done. Yi had a different opinion.
Yi said that a total ban is an irrational overreaction. He is opposed to criminalizing the sale of K2. He supports putting an age limit on sales of K2 as is done with alcohol-containing products. Yi expressed concern that law-abiding retailers might be wrongly hurt by this ban. He also questioned the legality of the ban.
“To harass and almost blacklist these merchants by not giving them a sticker, I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do or if it’s legal,” Yi said. He also noted that peanut butter can kill those with peanut allergies, alcohol can kill, automobiles can certainly kill, but we do not ban these things. Why totally ban K2.
Banning K2 could cause kids to seek illegal and perhaps more dangerous drugs, Yi noted. He also mentioned how legalization of many drugs in Portugal had lowered crime.
Supervisor Grewal interrupted Mr. Yi, while expressing appreciation for the diverse viewpoints he brings to the board. She pointed out that the majority of the board supported the ban and that this agenda item was really for information not debate.
Delinquent Taxes Are Coming In
Treasurer Patricia Scribner reported on the township’s collection of delinquent taxes. She said that at the close of the 2011 tax season there were 158 delinquent personal property accounts and that now there are only 17.
Since May 16, 2012, $95,000 has been collected. The total collected since May of 2009 is $770,100.
Hickory Woods Park is Taking Shape
Several items in the Supervisors agenda dealt with projects at Hickory Woods Park, a public area that is being transformed from a golf course.
The park is currently undergoing renovations. A ribbon cutting for completion of this phase is planned for June 30.
The next phase will be restoration of 20 acres of oak barrens/savannah habitat. Savannah is a park-like mixture of prairie grasslands and dispersed trees.
The project is being done through an agreement with Partners for Fish and Wildlife. Costs for the project will be shared. The renovation begins with killing of existing vegetation, and then the area will be planted with Michigan-genotype native grass and wildflower seeds.
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund will pay for park signage. A bid will be accepted from Windsor Fireform, pending approval by the DNR.
A concrete silo had been deemed unstable and an imminent danger to health. It will be demolished at a cost of $6,900.
Good News for Walkers and Bicyclers
Last Saturday was the official opening of the Pathway on Lohr Road. However, more facilities for walkers and bicyclists continue to be developed.
A new crossroads is being installed across Carpenter Road about halfway between Packer and Ellsworth. This has been an area of concern since deaths have occurred here. The project will be paid for by a community development block grant.
Trustee Krone expressed concerns about crosswalks being hazardous to cars if they should hit the island curbs. Trustee Yi expressed concern about the cost and the installation of annoying flashing lights.
Supervisor Grewal assured that the higher cost was to alleviate some of the safety concerns. A big part of the expense is for lighting and signage. She also said that studies show the flashing lights are effective.
Bike lanes, eight feet wide, are to be created on both the north and south sides of Ellsworth between Platt and Carpenter Roads. This will not involve widening the road. Instead the existing road will be restriped.
Grewal called this move historic. She said that previous boards have discussed but failed to act on the need for and East-West connection for non-motorized traffic in the township.