Seneca Twp. board 11.18.09

By DAVID GREEN

A Seneca Township child care facility now has a fenced-in area to conform with a state directive, but the issue was still discussed at the Nov. 9 Seneca board of trustees meeting.

Weston Road resident Dayna Cordts told board members that she was visited by a representative from the Michigan Department of Human Services and was told to construct a fenced six-foot by 10-foot area for the safety of toddlers, since her day care group home is located near Weston Road.

She chose to make it larger and created an eight-foot by 24-foot play area behind her house.

“I have no toddlers right now so I don’t know if it’s even going to be used,” Cordts said.

Township clerk Allison Ott questioned whether the space was large enough for 12 children, but Cordts said it was only for toddlers and the state agency does not require her to have a fence for 12 children.

Ott brought up the issue that has challenged the board for several meetings: The township ordinance book requires a 5,000 square foot play area “screened from any adjoining lot” for child care facilities.

Cordts pointed out as she has in the past that the ordinance does not mention the classification of her facility—a day care group home. She also reminded trustees that the ordinance does not use the word “fence” in regard to child care facilities, but the word was used in her permit.

Township supervisor John Gould told the board that state licensing officials will not enforce a township ordinance. Cordts has a valid special use permit to operate a child care facility on residentially zoned land, he said, and only the township board or circuit court will enforce that.

Gould said that at least four of the five planning commission members who approved the permit would like to have the wording changed to omit the fence requirement listed in the permit. The original permit issued in 2008 included the fence requirement from the ordinance, and when a second permit was issued last summer, the wording from the first permit was used again with the fence requirement listed. It was the commission’s understanding that a fence would not be included on the permit wording, Gould said.

Ott stated that the planning commission does not have the authority to alter the permit.

“Does a motion have to be made to leave me alone?” Cordts asked.

Ott said there’s still the issue of whether the special use permit was issued correctly or incorrectly.

Ott made a motion to have township attorney Dan Bruggeman take the matter to circuit court to have a disinterested party make a judgment on the permit.

Chris White, who serves on both the township board and the planning commission, suggested the commission needs to consider whether the permit is worded as they expected it to be.

He said it’s clear to him that the ordinance does not apply to Cordts because it doesn’t mention a day care group home.

White said he signed the permit incorrectly since it included the word “fence.”

“I think the planning commission needs to take it back and make it like it was intended,” White said. “I’m not sure we want to go to court on something we don’t have the language for.”

The planning commission is scheduled to meet Dec. 7.

When the motion to involve circuit court came up for a vote, only Ott and Marie Meinke voted in favor.

Cordts said Monday she intends to deliver petitions to the county clerk’s office this week in an effort to recall Ott and Meinke. If the signatures are verified, a special election could be scheduled in February at the earliest.

TAX PAYMENTS—The board voted to accept an offer from First Federal Bank to accept township tax payments. The free service will begin with the winter taxes.

Taxes can still be paid at the township hall during specified hours or mailed to Meinke, the treasurer. A new mail slot will also be constructed at the township hall for residents to use. Russ Swett was hired to install the slot at a cost of $190.

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