Dexter Township in Search of New Director of Planning and Zoning

For the past six years, Zach Michels has served in this important role, but now he’s stepping down.

“I am leaving because it is time,” Michels said. “I don’t know what’s next for me.”

He said he’s applied, “to the city of Ann Arbor to drive the zamboni at Vet’s Ice Arena, so there’s that.”

“I already have a forklift certification, but how killer would it be to be able to put zamboni on one’s resume?!” he said.

Dexter Township Supervisor Harley Rider said he’s, “saddened that Zach made that decision, but I support Zach.”

“He needs to do what is best for him personally, and for his family,” Rider said. “Zach has tremendous expertise and a wealth of knowledge. His work ethic is beyond reproach. I wish him nothing but the best.”

Michels said he feels mixed about his time with Dexter Township.

He said the position is an important one for the community.

“Especially at this point in time when it will face more pressures and more complex challenges than at any time in its history,” Michels said. “The decisions made today will affect the township, its resident’s, their quality of life, the environment and the infrastructure for decades and decades.”

“The planning staff have done an incredible amount of work to address legacy issues we inherited, improve processes…,” he said.

As an example, he said at one point after he arrived in the role, there were over 402 zoning permits that were more than a year old without any final certificate of zoning compliance. He said zoning permits generally expire after a year.

“Today, there is only one zoning permit that is more than a year old. I know it’s not that sexy, but it’s very important,” he said.

He said they have organized 80 percent of the township’s property and assessing folders, removing a stack of duplicate papers that was slightly over six feet high.

He said he worked to create the first development agreement ever in the township, and it included language to make sure that there was sufficient money to maintain and replace the roads. He said he has pushed a lot more information onto the website and convinced the township board of the value of broadcasting meetings.

In looking at his time, he said, “I enjoyed meeting people with different backgrounds and trying to help them understand planning and zoning, what options they might have available if they were prevented from doing exactly what they wanted to do and just hearing their stories. I am happy that we have been able to remain on good terms with most people who we have had to take enforcement action against.”

However, it wasn’t all perfect. He said he’s disappointed that more hasn’t been accomplished during his tenure.

“Serious revisions are due for the road ordinance, land division ordinance, anti-blight ordinances,” Michels said. “The township has yet to adopt a capital improvement plan. The master plan needs attention. A short-term rental ordinance will probably be needed shortly. The draft zoning ordinance is still nowhere near the finish line, even after 2,012 days. I had been looking forward to creating new informational pamphlets and easier-to-use application forms, digitizing all of the zoning records, and creating an MS Access program to better track things.”

“That being said, it’s always been a goal of mine to do the best work possible, leaving everything on the field,” he said. “I can sleep comfortably knowing that I have done as much as anybody could have been expected to do here and am beyond proud of the quality of the work that my name is attached to.”

Rider said the board will begin discussing the next steps in filling this position.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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