The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • 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.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • 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.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

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

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