Paying tribute to Mel Vaara: Our local community will never be the same again

Dear Editor,

Our community has suffered a great loss with the passing of Mel Vaara.
The influence Mel had as an educator, administrator, coach and mentor to both staff and students can’t be measured.
He loved everything about Clarkston and was its greatest cheerleader.
Although not the founder he could certainly be called the “Godfather of SCAMP.”
We should also be reminded of his years of service on the Independence Township Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, many as chairman of each.
In the mid-1960s, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) prepared a study of the impact the new I-75 would have on the suburbs in its path. Their projection that Independence Township population would expand to 90,000 by 1990 was not well received.
Mel was involved in the creation of a new master land use plan and parallel zoning ordinance that would regulate growth and require high standards of development.
It was decided we would not be a community of concrete, high rises and high-density development.
Later, in the 70s and 80s, on the Planning Commission and ZBA, he was a leader in the implementation of those documents. In later years he carried on the quest for community quality as an elected township trustee. Fifty years later, we all enjoy the benefits of the idyllic community Mel envisioned for all of us and especially wanted for his own family.
It is impossible to condense into the few sentences of an obituary the accomplishments of any person or the impact they have on people. Mel leaves behind his beautiful wife, Jo, and his legacy to his children and grandchildren, but a great part of his legacy that we are all beneficiaries of is this beautiful community we live in.
Mel was our friend, and we will miss him.
Our deepest condolences to Jo and all of Mel’s family.

Fred and Sheila Ritter
Independence Township

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