Large Hayes Turnout for Special Use Permit
Public Hearing Falls Just Short of Torches, Pitchforks

 

By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer

Clare County Cleaver

HARRISON – Members of the Hayes Township Planning Commission had their work cut out for them July 23. The purpose of their meeting was to conduct a public hearing regarding a request from Mostetler Road resident John and Chalissa Czuja for a special use permit. The Czujas have sought a permit allowing them to establish a campground on their home property, which is bounded by both Mostetler Road and Spikehorn Avenue.

The board room at Hayes Municipal Complex was virtually packed with the couple’s neighbors, each of whom had strong words to say about the proposed project, and even stronger words in describing past and ongoing conflicts.

Commission chairman Stan Lewis read out the following finding of the facts as compiled by Rod Williams, zoning administrator for Hayes Township:

“This property is currently zoned agricultural/rural residential and Article 4, Section 402-17 allows for campgrounds as a use permitted by special exception. The Czujas own an 11.63-acre parcel, which is 1.63 acres more than is required by the current zoning ordinance in Hayes Township. The current zoning ordinance requires a minimum of 10 acres to apply for this special use, dictated in Article 13, Section 1305: Campgrounds and Travel Trailer Parks.

“The Czujas have provided a site plan and a short narrative of their intended plans along with their application. The public hearing was published in the Clare County Cleaver for one week on Thursday, July 5, 2018. Notice to property owners within the 300-foot radius were mailed on Friday, July 6, 2018 from the United States Post Office in Harrison, Michigan.

“Ingress and egress is made to the site from Mostetler Road and there is a clear vision area to oncoming traffic from both directions, as well as a clear safe distance from the first intersection of Spikehorn and Mostetler to the east of the driveway.

“Given the small nature of this proposed campground, there should be no adverse impact on the transportation, public utilities, property values or the general character of the neighborhood.”

At that point, the hearing was opened to public comment. Lewis allowed the neighbors to speak their peace, but was diligent in demanding they direct their comments toward commissioners rather than allowing the meeting to turn into a strong-voiced dress down of one neighbor by another.

Access to the Czuja property lies just east of the Mostetler expressway overpass, and that brought concerns from neighbors who disagreed with the “clear sight” finding and about the safety of having a busy drive such a short sight distance from where eastbound traffic crests that overpass bridge.

The comments were wide-ranging and tended to focus on lack of consideration for civility or support of a peaceful neighborhood. Some comments were obviously the dredging up of long-held grudges, but others spoke to real concern and lack of faith that the Czujas would follow the conditions of a special use permit, if granted.

It was pointed out that the Czujas already had brought six small buildings onto their property without any permitting. That came to light and investigation by the township began in September 2017. The situation on the Czuja property continued to be on the monthly township agendas through December 2017. That was when the township moved to have Rod Williams contact the township’s attorney.

The buildings had been moved back into the woods and placed on concrete piers but, apparently, a cease and desist order was  issued and all work on the property was directed to be stopped until a permit could be secured. That permit, however, is tied to the condition that the permit could not be issued until blight issues on the property are resolved. The Czujas said they have been working toward that goal.

The Czujas said their intent is to establish a “family campground” with four of the six buildings to be used as primitive camping shelters. The remaining two structures would be used as an office and a storage unit. The campground also would require the drilling of a separate water well. As a primitive campground, there would be portable toilets onsite.

Neighbors also raised concerns about expanded parking when there already is a problem with parking along the Czuja property.

Several permit conditions were suggested by those in attendance, one of which was high perimeter fencing of the entire property.

Lewis also read aloud letters the commission had received on the issue, none of which had one positive thing to say about the Czujas or the proposed campground.

Williams also did some reading for the attendees. He cited state law which clearly states that if all required conditions are met by the property owner, “a permit shall be issued.” That issuance is not determined by whether or not the applicant gets along with neighbors.

The special use permitting by the township is only the first step in the process. It was said the next steps would be to the Clare County Road Commission, then on to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Planning Commission members did not vote on the issue that evening, but rather decided to go visit the property to get a better understanding of the sight-distance issue, as well as where the buildings are located and what the parking situation would be. The commission will meet again at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6 to arrive at its decision. That meeting will be open to the public, but not public comments will be heard as that part of the process is over.