Zoning Decision Made by the Brady Township Board

By Sue Moore

The Brady Township Board last month finally approved a zoning ordinance amendment which preserves some buffer zoning districts between agricultural zones and residential areas. The township’s planning commission, trustees and members of the farming community had discussed the issue for most of 2015.

In trying to please the residents in Brady Township who live on and near lakes, the Planning Commission continued to try and modify the state’s right to farm act which discourages barriers, for example, to placing a hog farm next to a residential area in some parts of the township.

Concerns were voiced at the February meeting. But the board passed the ordinance 5-0 over the objections of the farmers in attendance who might want to locate a facility in the township and objections from the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau which has also taken a stand on this ordinance.

Scott Oswalt, a member of the Planning Commission and a cattle and sheep farmer in the township, told the board that the best thing it could do is “do nothing.” He said he didn’t know of any current or future threats from concentrated animal feeding operations that might want to build near residential areas, so why pass this ordinance?

Ryan Hunter, of H&H Farms and a large hog farmer in the south county area, had serious objections and was represented by his attorney Owen Ramey. “These are not idle threats to sue,” Ramey warned. “This is a fool’s mission. It will result in great expense to the township. There is no real issue that you are trying to address with this ordinance.”

Randy Smith, township supervisor, disagreed with the speakers on all points. He said, “Zoning isn’t done to fix a problem. It is to address a problem before it happens and it’s too late. Zoning is used to avoid land use conflict between one landowner or another. We are proposing low density between high density and agriculture.

“In 1997, the zoning was changed when Rob Richardson, a farmer in the township, was chair of the Planning Commission. We are restating this concept that was formulated in ’97 but disallowed by the Right to Farm act in 2014 because of the changes in the Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices. This is what has created the friction,” Smith said.

Lee Philport, township trustee and former supervisor, explained that, “This is a rural agriculture community. The lake has a much higher density. The township is not fighting the farmers. All we are doing is trying to protect the heavier residential areas. There is no need for the lawsuits and that upsets me.”

Summing up, Craig Rolfe, attorney for the township, explained that right to farm is based upon existing zoning. “We, the township, have the authority to allow or not allow this ordinance, the legal inferences notwithstanding.”

The township board also approved the emergency services special assessment district and set a public hearing on the roll at its regular March 1 meeting.

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