Letter to the Editor: Sylvan Township Faces Critical Vote

The Sylvan Township Planning Commission is facing a critical vote that will have far reaching effects for the entire township.  The unintended consequences could create future financial problems for the township’s sewer and water system and maintaining the integrity of Agriculturally zoned districts.
Recently residents in the Cavanaugh Lake area were notified of a request by the Florence Phinney Family Trust to rezone 120 acres of nearby farmland from Agricultural Use to Low Density Residential Use with the intention of developing the acreage into a clustered subdivision on 1 acre lots.  

The farmland in question has no access to our sewer and water district.  If the rezoning was approved it would set a precedent in the township that would incentivize developers to build on the smaller 1 acre lots outside of the district to avoid cost and would directly compete with developments in the sewer and water district.  

When the sewer and water system was put in place in 2002 Sylvan Township implemented a plan that intended to keep development along the City of Chelsea Boundary, to make the system financially stable.    

Taxpayers are already burdened with subsidizing the system with a 4.4 mills levy, so any development outside of it represents lost revenue and therefore continued subsidization.

Rezoning was requested to reduce the minimum lot size to 1-acre instead of the current minimum requirement of 2-acres of buildable land within the Agriculturally zoned district, and would double the number of allowable homes on the site.

A 2-acre minimum spreads houses out, keeping housing and traffic density lower in a local area, and preserves space for wildlife habitat.  This has been crucial for preserving the rural character of the township and is consistent with our Master Plan.

The proposed development is near the township border west of Cavanaugh Lake, adjacent to active farmland and multiple 10-acre parcels with facilities to accommodate large farm animals and other agricultural uses.  The consensus among local residents is that the proposed development is inconsistent with the township’s Master Plan and would have devastating effects on the local community due to high increases in vehicle traffic volume along an area of Cavanaugh Lake Road where there is high pedestrian traffic with no sidewalks and narrow shoulders, dangerous intersections due to site distance restrictions, and across areas that are sometimes impassable due to flooding.

I talked to many residents and the most common question was, “Why would you put it way out here?”  I agree, outside of the condensed communities around Cavanaugh and Crooked Lake there is active farmland and larger parcels of land that current land-owners have actively protected to ensure the benefits of greenspace, and lower housing and traffic densities.  

Let’s focus higher density development along the City of Chelsea’s border where it was intended, until the system has a sustainable financial base and can relieve taxpayers of the 4.4 mills tax burden.

At the February 28th Planning Commission meeting the request for rezoning was tabled.  It was not clear if the rezoning request will be reconsidered again at the next meeting on March 28th, but public input will be important for them to make the best decision possible for the future of the township’s local communities and the financial viability of the sewer and water system.

For more information or to express your opinion please email:  sylvanconcernedcitizens@gmail.com.  And contact Sylvan Township at:  info@sylvan-township.orgor 734-475-8890

Amanda Nimke Ballard                                                                                                                                                    Concerned Sylvan Township Resident

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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