Bonner Hills follows new zoning classification 2008.08.20

Written by David Green.

Bonner Hills

The best use of land comes through good planning, said Stuart Bruinsma, chair of the Lenawee County Rural Land Use committee.bonner.hills.jpg

The second stop on the land use tour introduced visitors to Bonner Hills, a residential development on the edge of Tecumseh that protects existing wetlands and woods.

A unique zoning classification “broke the rules” to allow a new concept in residential design.

Paula Holtz, economic development director for Tecumseh, said the city annexed the 84 acre parcel 10 years ago without any specific plan for use.

The property was considered for several uses, including a new high school and a technological research and development park. The property included more than 17 acres of wetlands and a 2.5 acre pond, and when any uses were discussed, there were several area residents who pleaded for retention of the natural features among the rolling hills.

“The city started to think differently,” Holtz said. “We looked for a new approach to development.”

A proposal for housing listed 392 sites for townhouses, but that was too much for the planning commission. The developer came back twice with reduced density and finally settled at 194  sites.

To make it all work, planners developed a new zoning classification—Environmental Residential Community (ERC)—that, among other changes, allowed cluster housing to maximize open space.

Traditionally, said Tecumseh development director Brad Raymond, land is leveled when a new residential community begins. That wasn’t the case at Bonner Hills.

“ERC recognized the natural features to preserve,” he said. “The rolling hills and wetlands are still here. It’s development with a sensitivity to the environment.”

The city made concessions, such as using natural drainage features rather than curbed gutters and a storm water sewer system. Street width was reduced to 18 feet.

There were issues with the maneuverability of garbage and fire trucks, Raymond said, but some tweaking to the plans alleviated the concerns.

The site includes four retention ponds, and a few culverts, and riprap is placed in certain areas to address erosion problems.

“It wasn’t an overnight process,” said Bob Fox who represents Bonner Hills. “We’re thankful the developer was willing to work it through and go with a smaller density. It’s one of a kind in southeast Michigan.”

Macon Township

During the tour’s lunch break, Lee Wagner, Macon Township supervisor, spoke about the agricultural land preservation measures in force there. He described them as the strongest in Lenawee County.

Residential splits require 40 acres of land with 300 feet of road frontage.

Wagner said township residents have been surveyed twice to gauge support for the measure and both times the majority favored the law—even non-farming families. The ordinance was formulated when encroachment began claiming farmland.

Wagner said the ordinance has been challenged twice by developers hoping to bring in subdivisions, but the township board has prevailed.

“You never know how good it’s going to work until you get challenged,” he said.

Wagner noted that it works well for Macon, an area without any major roads or communities.

“Every township is different,” he said, suggesting that it wouldn’t be the right fit for every area.

Purchase of Development Rights

Kendra Wills, land use agent for the Kent County Extension Service office near Grand Rapids, spoke about land preservation through the purchase of development rights (PDR).

“Agriculture is expected to soon take over as Michigan’s number one industry,” Wills said. “We need to look at agriculture as an economic development tool.”

Twenty-five percent of the state’s land is used for agricultural purposes, she said, and one in four jobs are somehow linked to agriculture. In Lenawee County, 89 percent of the land is used for farming.

With the PDR program, farmland owners can voluntarily sell the development rights to property at fair market value in return for deeding a permanent conservation easement held by the county. The easement stays on the deed through subsequent sales.

PDR protects the land, not the owner of the land, Wills said. It doesn’t designate a particular use of the land, but it ensures availability for future agricultural use.

Fair market value is the difference between the enhanced value of land if it were sold for development and the basic value if sold for farming.

For example, if land were selling for $5,300 an acre for development and $2,000 as farmland, the development rights would sell for $3,300 an acre.

PDR has been funded by state and federal money, along with local township and private donations.

The afternoon session of the tour included stops at Swindemans’ Applewood Orchards and Gary Iott’s tomato and cabbage farm, both located near Deerfield.a

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016