Harley B. Rider
Where I Stand on Local Issues
Transparency and Inclusion
The Dexter Township Board operates under the Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) and has historically scrupulously adhered to and exceeded the requirements of the Act. In my 28 years on the Township Board, Dexter Township has never been cited for a violation of the OMA.
Without exception, all Township meetings are open to the public. We even open meetings of committees that AREN'T required to be open to the public. We notice all meetings on our website. We post the annual meeting schedule in the paper and on our website. We rarely find it necessary to hold "executive sessions" and never take any action outside of a fully open public meeting.
All meeting minutes are published in a timely manner and are always available for public inspection. Draft minutes are always included in the public packet for the Board of Trustees meetings.
We have been Livestreaming our Board, PC and ZBA meetings for many years. Now that meetings are "virtual", they have been noticed on all the available Facebook pages, as well as on the Township website.
Listening to the citizens, citizen inclusion, and availability to the public have always been a top priority of the Dexter Township Board. Even though we are a small governmental unit, we have maintained full-time office hours for many years. The Township Clerk, Treasurer and Supervisor have also maintained regular office hours and members of the public can often visit any of us without appointment.
We also open the Township Hall to meetings of neighborhood and home owner associations. One of the elected officials (usually me) is generally available at each of those meetings.
No, the challengers can't be more "transparent" or "inclusive" than the current Township Board. Nor do they have the knowledge of the governing statutes or the experience to implement anything beyond what is already being done.
Purchase of Development Rights (PDR)
There is a rumor going around that I don't support PDR. That is a false rumor. In August, 2005, I made the motion to adopt the PDR Ordinance for Dexter Township. That Ordinance clearly supports PDR and sets the parameters for purchasing development rights. That ordinance was adopted on a 4-2 vote (one Trustee was absent).
Interestingly, the two who voted AGAINST the PDR ordinance, were the two members of the Township Board who owned large tracts of farmland - Carl Lesser and Julie Knight. In case you don't know, Julie Knight, former Township Treasurer, is co-owner of what is now known as the "Doletzky" property - the very one that Guenther Building Company is purchasing and is developing into an Open Space Community that could have as many as 44 houses on the parcel. (Fortunately, the Zoning Ordinance has provisions to minimize the impact that development would have on our "rural character".)
(And it's my understanding that, contrary to what is being spread around, the Knight/Doletzky family wanted to sell the property itself to a land conservancy, not just the development rights. No PDR program would have allowed the actual purchase of the property with PDR funds. If my understanding is incorrect, I trust someone will provide documentation.)
In a comment that is on the record, Trustee Carl Lesser said that all but a couple owners of large tracts of land were AGAINST the PDR Ordinance, even though the ordinance wouldn't require anyone to get into the program - participation is strictly voluntary.
The Township PDR ordinance allows for contributions to the program, but in the 15 years the program has been in place, only a few citizens have written checks and the total received by the Township for PDR is around $2,000 - not anywhere near enough to purchase any development rights. I don't believe ANY of those who are running on a platform of "preserving the land" have contributed to the program, but they want to TAX everyone in the Township for the program.
On the whole, the residents and property owners in Dexter Township enjoy a higher-than-average family income. There are more than 100 owners of property in Dexter Township who could easily write a check to the PDR program for $1,000 every year without missing a dime of it. There are more than 1,000 property owners who could write a check to the program every year for $100, again, without missing a dime of it. Those contributions would bring in more than the proposed 1/2 mil.
However, there are well more than 100 property owners who can't afford the hit of another tax. Every year I hear from folks who say they have to move out of the area because property taxes are too high. Many have to choose between buying groceries and paying property tax twice each year. Unfortunately, the voters in urban Washtenaw County never met a tax they didn't like, such as the tax for Regional Transit that would not have benefited Dexter Township, but we would have paid for it for many years. Only the common sense of Macomb County voters spared us that tax.
You may write a large check to Dexter Township for your property tax, but the vast majority of that tax is distributed to other taxing entities, such as Washtenaw County and the schools. Very little stays with Dexter Township. The current Board has done an amazing job of keeping your Township taxes low and have provided the best use of your tax dollars to support essential services.
So, while I do support the ability to offer PDR to those who want it, I don't support the idea of taxing people out of their homes to pay for it, when there are so many folks who could contribute WITHOUT A TAX, but choose not to. I would even support a tax, if the tax money collected couldn't exceed the amount of private contributions the prior year. That would give some incentive for the program to be paid for by those who could easily afford it.
But it would just be a half of a mil. That won't hurt anyone. Yes it will hurt many of the lower income folks in Dexter Township. And there is no legal way to exclude any property owner from a portion of a specific tax. So, my reluctance to support a Township-wide tax for PDR is my commitment to protect ALL property owners and to keep our taxes as low as possible to enable us to provide essential services to everyone.
Finally, for those who may not know it, Barry Lonik may be one of the main folks pushing for a PDR tax. Two years ago, Barry, on a Facebook post, said he would work to get a slate of people to run against the current Board. Folks should know that Barry derives his income from managing development rights programs. That's right, Barry potentially stands to gain financially from a PDR tax. So, one needs to look at special interest support for the slate of challenging candidates.
Diversity of Ideas
Those challenging the incumbent Board say the Township needs "diversity" of ideas, as if only the challengers can provide that diversity. But if you look at the challengers, they are all of the same mindset, spout the same catch-phrases, and they all support PDR. They say they support properly managing growth, but that's exactly what this Township Board and Planning Commission have done for decades. They also say they support "transparency" and "inclusion", both of which are the hallmarks of the current Township Board. (See "Transparency and Inclusion" above.)
And one can't say that the current Township Board, Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals aren't "diverse". The current Board has had many 4-3, 5-2 and 6-1 votes over the years. That demonstrates that we don't all think alike and that we have diverse opinions.
On the current Board, Treasurer Libby Brushaber has extensive accounting experience and has done an excellent job of managing the Township's finances. Trustee Jim Drolett is a retired Chief Probation Officer, former Zoning official in the city of Chelsea, and former Township Supervisor. Trustee Bill Gajewski is a registered pharmacist with extensive education in land use. Trustee Mike Compton retired from General Motors. Trustee Mark Mesko retired from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department. Clerk Debra Ceo retired from the Ann Arbor Police Department, she was my Deputy Clerk and my Election Coordinator. And before she was Deputy Clerk, Deb was Deputy Treasurer.
On the Township Planning Commission (which is an independent body that is NOT under the control of the Township Board), there is also significant diversity. Chair Steve Burch is retired from the United States Navy and has extensive experience in electronics. Steve is a volunteer in charge of maintenance and monitoring our Outdoor Warning System (OWS). He is also a former member and Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Vice-Chair Marty Straub is a long-term Township resident, an engineer, and former County Commissioner. Bob Nester is the owner of several parcels of beautiful land and is a retired marine biologist. He also started The Sun Times News - our local paper. Tom Lewis is a former Chair of the PC. He retired from Chrysler Corporation and is the Zoning Administrator for Putnam Township. Andy Reiser is the General Manager for Hackney Hardware. Chandra Hurd was an alternate on our ZBA and was on the ZBA in the city of Dexter when she lived there. She also worked in the Planning Department of the city of Ann Arbor.
(Side note: The only appointment power the Township Supervisor has is for the Planning Commission, but only with the approval of the Township Board. It has been my pleasure to have appointed Marty, Andy and Chandra to the PC. I also appointed Kate Mehuron to the PC and recommended her as our representative to the Huron River Watershed Council. However, those positions terminated when she moved out of Dexter Township.)
The Township Zoning Board of Appeals (also an independent body that is NOT under the control of the Township Board) is also diverse. Chair Brook Smith is an attorney who lives on Portage Lake. Vice-Chair Beth Filip is also an attorney and lives in a relatively new subdivision. Jay Holland is an experienced builder and has served on the Scio Township Planning Commission. He lives on North Lake. Jim Drolett represents the Township Board on the ZBA and Marty Straub represents the Planning Commission on the ZBA. Don Darnell is an attorney and is an alternate member of the ZBA.
On the Township Board of Review (also an independent body that is NOT under the control of the Township Board), David Diesing was a business owner in Chelsea. Mike Howard is a long-term Township resident, a retired builder and served on the Township Board. Nina Rackham is a long-term Township resident and is the owner of a large tract of agricultural land.
I am proud to have appointed, or recommended the appointment of, many of those listed above, and they definitely bring a diverse background and diverse opinions to Dexter Township government. The single-issue challengers will not provide anywhere near as much diversity as that which the current Board of Trustees has brought to Dexter Township.