By Sam Moraco
I have been on the Planning commission for almost two decades. I have tried hard to keep Independence Township a bedroom community while working with other commissioners to get the township the best development deals possible. A goal is to keep an even balance under the premise Independence Township should encourage businesses who provide the best services to our residence but at the same time not let new business draw larger amounts of traffic or have a negative impact on the community.
I believe the boards and commissions have done a great job so far of keeping Independence Township a special place to live.
There is an ever changing leadership we elect to hopefully represent our values and vision. That’s why every five years we review the master plan and update it to help us move into the future while still protecting the character of our community.
The reason for a master plan is so temporary board members and appointees don’t change the community without the community impute and consensus.
There have been past boards who found historical preservation a priority. There have been boards who just follow the plan and allow little change. We have worked for decades to deemphasize the commercial presence in the township. by lowering aerial signs and moving signage closer to the road.
We have always restricted LED changing text signs. The consensus has been they go against the feel and look of what we have worked so hard to preserve.
We now have a board who wants to take us in a different direction and interprets the master plan and its guidelines differently.
They have taken a bold step to go against the planning commission’s recommendations and past public comment on restricting these types of signs, something I can’t remember seeing past boards do before on an issue this large.
At the last meeting, the board voted unanimously to allow these signs for one business owner. They voted five minutes later to restrict any applications for other businesses to apply for a similar sign for a minimum of six months until the commission can research how to handle and regulate them. They added some restrictions to the new owner’s sign that the commission and public never had a chance to deliberate on.
I don’t believe this will be the only sign of its kind in the township once approved. There doesn’t appear to be any benefit this business brings to the township that doesn’t compare with other businesses here currently.
I have been asking residents for years their opinions and haven’t found a single resident who believes this type of signage is a benefit to the community over the negative impact they have on the streetscape and look of the community.
Yet the board feels they are insignificant to the character of the community and the lack of people in attendance at meeting to discuss them shows somehow residents are in favor or impartial of them. There seems to be very little public support to remain a bedroom community.
So, I’m putting it out there. If you care about the township allowing these signs then you need to speak up, show up or tell someone that makes decisions for you how you feel before the next board meeting.
If you don’t care about them, that’s fine also. This will be a significant change to township, in my opinion, despite what the elected and appointed official say.
I think it’s time to put this issue to rest after so many years of discussions. Whether we continue to fight for the status quo or become like everyone else will be determined at the next board meeting on Sept. 24 at township hall on Waldon Center Drive at 6 p.m. I’m optimistic the opinion of the people either way will be obvious to everyone after that meeting so we can affectively govern on your behalf. Hope to see you there.
Sam Moraco is a member of the Independence Township Planning Commission, member of Preservation Clarkston, and owner of MLC Building Company.