What You Need to Know About Zoning and Development in Washington Township

How Are Decisions Made on Zoning and New Developments?

Every parcel has a current zoning classification and an approved future classification (the Master Plan).  Zoning classifications allow for different types of uses - commercial, industrial, office, agricultural, residential, etc.  The Master Plan is developed by a 7 member citizen panel called the “Planning Commission” (the “PC”).  They are appointed by the 7 member elected township board to 3 year terms that are staggered to avoid sudden drastic changes in philosophy.  The PC is required by law to evaluate the Master Plan every 3-5 years and makes minor changes each time.   

Land owners wishing to change zoning to a different use must receive the approval of the PC and board.  The rezoning will not be approved if not consistent with the Master Plan.  Landowners have a legal right to the change if it meets the Master Plan.  Of the currently active residential developments, 38% were approved in the last 10 years with the rest approved over a decade ago.  100% of those approved in the last 10 years meet the Master Plan.  Of those active sites that were approved prior to a decade ago, only 27% were consistent with the Master Plan ( done as legal settlements, etc.).  We negotiated favorable improvements to 36% of the older developments when opportunities arose.

Why Is the Planning Commission Allowing So Many Changes to Our Town?

Landowners have a legal right to develop their land if they do so according to zoning and Master Plan.  This administration does not approve developments that are inconsistent with the Master Plan. See above.

Has Someone Changed the Master Plan to Make it More Intense?

The Master Plan was developed in the early 1970s.   The Village District on Van Dyke was added decades ago.   Regional commercial as an alternative to industrial in the area of 32 Mile and Powell was added a decade ago.  Public workshops were held in 2015 to more explicitly allow recreational activities in the 30 Mile and Powell area (soccer complex, etc.) much of which were already allowable as a special land use anyway.  We also moderately increased allowable residential density from 31 Mile to 32 Mile between Powell and M53 due to the availability of sewer in that limited area. 

We Want to Keep the Town As It IS.  Can We Change the Master Plan Back to Agricultural?

Absent very legitimate reasons, a landowner who acquires a property with an understanding that it has an ultimate land use in the Master Plan for commercial or residential would be financially harmed if we suddenly altered the plan to require their land to remain farms.  It would be successfully litigated.  In the end, the best way to stop a property from being developed is to buy it.

What Has This Administration Done to Ensure Development is Reasonable?

We granted “special land use” rights to farmers to allow them to do special services (wineries, recreation, etc.) to keep their farms viable so they stay in operation.   We kept our Master Plan low to moderate in density.  We have not entered into ANY new consent judgements regarding residential developments (the prior board had the irresponsible practice of bypassing proper practices and citizen panels to cut deals with developers). 

Why Are You Adding Sewer in the North End?  Doesn’t That Increase Development?

Our Master Plan already calls for regional commercial, residential, or industrial between 31 and 32 Mile east of M53 and west of Powell.   Romeo’s Council has discussed annexing that area.  It is critical that the areas bordering Romeo have utilities to avoid that.  If that land is annexed, the development would STILL occur but would now be ROMEO, not Washington, and not be built to our standards.  Further, commercial and industrial are high contributors to taxes to support our town, school, and emergency services.  So residents would bear more tax cost and the same or worse development! 

Why Does Our Master Plan Allow for Mobile Home Parks and High Density?

State law requires that we allow for all types of living. 

Why Can’t We Just Be A Bedroom Community with Nothing But Residential?

The law requires different types of uses to be accommodated.  Industrial and commercial are necessary for job creation and amenities.  Residents DON’T pay the school operating millage but commercial and industrial do, supporting schools on our behalf.  Local governments lose money for residential homes except high value homes because the cost of services outweighs taxes generated.   However, commercial tax revenue is 2.5 times, and industrial 4 times, what they cost in services. 

Are We Overbuilding Commercial and Causing a Lot of Vacancies?

No.  Our plan calls for commercial along major corridors such as Van Dyke, 32 Mile and along 26 Mile.  Our Master Plan does not call for commercial down the Mile Roads or off of Van Dyke for roads going North/South.    Washington has a very low commercial vacancy rate. 

Are We Doing Enough to Attract Business, Jobs and Amenities?

We have low tax rates, solid services, and improved road, water and sewer infrastructure to create a positive business environment.  Our high home values attract residents who can support businesses with their purchasing dollar.  In the last 10 years over 60 businesses have moved here, including but not limited to: Jake O’Malley’s, Brown Iron Brewery, Art and Jakes, Pizza Nostalgia, Bangkok Cuisine, Saporis, Taco Bell, Pamela’s Catering, Jimmy Johns, Michigan Planners, Angelica’s Place, Pure Sleep, Powerhouse Gym, Salon V, Total Health Systems, Miracle Ear, AAA, Anytime Fitness, Sylvan Learning, Movement Project, Salvation Army, Advanced Auto, Rite Aid, Brush Salon, All State, Crittendon Medical, Katy’s Corner, Autozone, Serra Kia, Recycle Fitness, Verizon, Total Soccer, Sally’s Beauty, Orielly’s Auto Parts, Basement Salon, Diversified Financial, Escape Room, Randazzo Call Center, United Framing, Tropical Smoothie.  Many more are lining up to come here as will be announced over time.

Is Our Town Planned To Become a Congested City?

It is planned for controlled growth that respects our rural environment and character.  Even upon full build out, our Master Plan calls for less density than towns to the South. 

What Are the Limits of Township Control Over Development?

It is illegal to discriminate between one business and another (Meijer vs Trader Joes).  It is illegal to say we already have a pharmacy or auto parts store so we won’t allow more (restraint of trade/ anti-trust).  It is illegal to say “we want locally owned businesses vs corporate”.  The law requires we accommodate multiple types of living.  We cannot use zoning to make a use illegal that is otherwise legal.

We Want to Know What the Supervisor Thinks About a Particular Project

The Supervisor must properly steer the applicant through the process.  He cannot give an opinion until after the PC issues a decision or it is considered “undue influence” and could be court challenged.    

We Hear You Favor the Developers – Is that True?

Many don't know that I organized 6 different homeowner's associations to fight a 200 unit attached multi family development in 2004 at 28 and Campground that would destroy property values in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Instead we got 82 stand-alone condos with values greater than our own homes. 

Many don't know that it was I that spent $8,000 of my own money on attorneys to stop a 1,500 unit development in 2008 that was poorly thought though and had no real utility plan. 

Many don’t know that I am the one who successfully organized local, State and County resources to prevent an area of our town from becoming a composting dump site for southern Macomb towns. 

Many don’t know that I am the one who has issued strict "no gift" guidelines in the township.  I do not even accept a free lunch.  I am the one who has terminated the employment of employees who violated ethics policies. 

Many don’t know that I am the one who has informed developers to work within the system because we will not settle out of court in "consent judgments" if they try to go around proper processes. 

Many don't know that I am a significant witness in the FBI corruption case that was meant to route out the kind of culture that allows residents to suffer at the hands of influential forces with money. 

We certainly do welcome proper development that fits the Master Plan.  We work well with any developer that respects our citizen panel and our processes.  We strive for controlled growth that preserves our rural character.  That balance is something I am proud of.  It is a balance I have had a direct impact on.

Decide for yourself.  Is Washington a great place to live or no?  I believe it is and is getting better every day.

 

Conclusion

Our board’s record on standing by a solid Master Plan has been strong.  We operate within the law and uphold the Master Plan.  Washington continues to be an incredibly wonderful place to live.