By Sue Moore
In a 4-2 vote and following a threat of litigation from some property owners, the Brady Township Planning Commission voted to recommend several significant changes to the RR rural residential zoning district, the so-called Option 1, to the Township Board.
The recommendation will be placed on the Board’s February 9 agenda.
The option is aimed at controlling the distance between large-scale commercial livestock operations from the small-parcel residential areas and adjacent parts of Vicksburg.
David Locey, Michelle Crawford, Mike Henderson and Ray LaZotte voted for the changes. Scott Oswalt and Gary Miller were opposed. Julie Skryczepk was absent.
An attorney representing large livestock farmers said legal action against the township was certain if the Township board adopts the recommendation.
Henderson, chair of the Planning Commission, explained that the township had what it thought was the right solution when it created the RR buffer zone in 1997. That was before the state of Michigan’s Right to Farm act existed. Rules followed that legislation, called “generally accepted agriculture management practices”–GAAMPS.
Due to recent changes in the GAAMPS, township officials felt forced to make some changes. Option 1 eliminates large-scale livestock production in the RR district and requires such operations to be 1,500 feet from an RR-zoned parcel although it permits small-scale raising of livestock. Current crop farming could continue, but as a nonconforming use.
Township officials earlier in the year had discussed the needs with state officials, hoping to make changes to the GAAMPS rules. “We wanted to offer flexibility to those who just do crop farming now or in the future but these suggestions didn’t make it into the 2016 GAAMPS rules after we had some good dialog with the Michigan Department of Agriculture,” Henderson explained.
Oswalt argued for taking no action. He contended the threat that large-scale livestock operations will locate close to residential areas is only a perceived one, that the Planning Commission cannot justify Option 1 on a threat level. “I think that agriculture makes this a better place to live. If nothing has happened in the last year why are we doing this?”
Henderson said that two-thirds of the township is zoned agriculture which is a blessing for this mixed use community. But he added that the diversity brings challenges. “We are all struggling with it.”
The bottom line is that the recommendation made by the planning commission re-establishes the large scale livestock free buffer zone in the rural residential zoning district and doesn’t adversely impact existing farming in that zoning district.