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

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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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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