For many years the community has wanted a viable downtown business district in Whitmore Lake.

When I left as supervisor, I left behind a concept drawing of what that may look like. It called for re-routing Main Street down Barker and then going north on the east side of US 23 and tying back in to 8 mile in a roundabout. All the parking would be behind mixed-use buildings, so it would not intrude upon the lake view and the park.

The current Board is now going to push through a housing development that would take up 17 acres of township owned land and leave us a 6-acre park.  This was never in the Master Plan. The Board had proposed one plan to the Planning Commission, phasing in business and a park, then housing. They received approval and changed it and went back with the current plan of all housing, got that approved and are ready to cut this deal without any more community involvement. I, and others, had asked that they at least send out a post card to the community since this is one of those forever decisions and needs more community involvement. They have refused to notify you. Sound familiar?

Additionally, they are also considering expansion of the sewer system funded with General Obligation Bonds. Which would mean that everyone in the township, not just the sewer users, would have to pay for it if the township got into financial trouble. That's what happened in Sylvan Township, where every taxpayer's Property Taxes were hiked 450% to pay the debt.

As I see it the issues are:

  1. In my opinion, there cannot be any meaningful lake front park without re-routing Main Street. The building of these homes would prevent any consideration of that. The small park proposed will primarily be used by the people in the new houses, an asset for the developer that we are paying for. He mandated that 50% of the sale price of $765,000 be spent on the park in the purchase agreement.
  2. There has not been an independent written appraisal done on the value of the land, which I feel is a breach of the Board’s fiduciary responsibility to the community.
  3. It violates the Master Plan that we approved.
  4. This is in the DDA district which means 50% of the revenue will ultimately go to the DDA, not to the township general fund.
  5. There has been no environmental impact study done to evaluate 17 acres of hard surfaces and the impact of the runoff into the lake.
  6. We need more community involvement and re-look at a long-range plan for a real downtown.
  7. Building housing there does not put money into the township. As a matter of fact, it provides negative cashflow as hundreds of Cost of Service studies have shown. The Scio study showed residential development cost $1.33 for every dollar generated.
  8. The sewer expansion should only be funded with Revenue Bonds and sewer users should pay. I do not want to be financially responsible for a sewer I will never be able to use. (Do You?)

Some members of the Board are being totally irresponsible in their handling of these decisions and are pushing this along as fast as they can to avoid more community involvement. It is election time and you may wish to seriously consider who to vote for. Please be at the township Town Hall meeting next Tuesday, February 25 at 6 PM to voice your opinion.

Michael Cicchella
Supervisor 2004-2008

January 7, 2020

By David Gordon

  • Board to Sell 80% of Park for Peanuts 

  • Betrays Residents, Disses DPG’s “Synthesis Plan”

  • Ignores Own Subcommittee Review

At its first meeting of the year, the Board voted 5-2 to sell off 80% of our only lakefront property to a developer for a subdivision that got a “D” grade from the Board’s own subcommittee.

Supervisor Marlene Chockley and Trustee Tawn Beliger made the motion to sell off 18 of 23 acres for $1.1M even though the property was assessed at $2.3M in 2015.

Clerk Kathy Manley and Trustees Janet Chick and Jacki Otto also voted in favor of the sale, ignoring two township-generated surveys in which the residents said they wanted a “Park Only” by a 2-to-1 margin.

Treasurer Lenore Zelenock and Trustee Wayne Dockett opposed the sale. Both said the issue should be put before the voters. The $1.1M sale price was later removed from the motion for more consideration.

Inexplicably, the Board is negotiating without an attorney or a realtor.

The chosen developer, Livonia Builders, is proposing a subdivision of 90-100 “starter and retirement homes” on the parcel which fronts Main Street and Whitmore Lake, leaving less than five acres for a public park and almost nothing, just under 1/5th of an acre, less than 1% of the total acreage, allocated for future commercial growth.

The park will be effectively much less than five acres because the access road, public parking, retention pond and perimeter path around the whole property will be counted as park. In 2017, the Downtown Planning Group (DPG) plan design promised at least 50% of the land would be park; now it’s less than 20%.

The Board is negotiating without an attorney because long-time township attorney Paul Burns resigned effective Dec. 31 and has not been replaced in the two months since he informed the Board. No realtor was hired “to save on commissions”, according to Township Manager Stephen Aynes, who is negotiating the deal together with Township Planner Paul Lippens.

Five residents spoke at the “First Call to the Public” and pleaded for the Board to respect the residents desire for a “Park Only”. No resident spoke in favor of selling off the property.

“You’ve got no business giving away our park,” said long-time resident Margaret Riddell. “I’d support a millage to keep this property a park,” she added. A park millage has never been on the Board’s agenda.

“Five acres is not enough for 8,300 residents,” said resident Julia Henshaw. “A big park would be a wonderful asset and you’re selling price is much less than what it’s worth.”

The Board bought the property for about $330,000 in 2016, well below its assessed value of $2.3M. The heirs of long-time owner Donald Van Curler essentially “gifted” the land to the township. The Board is considering $1.1M for 18 acres, a price that was set by a developer.

Livonia Builders says their subdivision “will be designed in the new urbanism architectural style” which means homes very close together with tiny yards. That would mean the 138 children they’re expecting will use the public park as their front yard.

“We’re building a park for the developer’s subdivision,” charged Zelenock. “This is a great piece of property and these development proposals are not good enough.”

Jim Nelson chided the Board for ignoring it’s own subcommittee ranking of the project. “The development proposals got a ‘D’ grade in terms of meeting the vision of the Synthesis Plan,” he said. “Your actions are embarrassing.”

David Gordon accused the Board of betraying the residents. “You never seriously considered a “Park Only” plan. You wanted mixed-use so came up with the “Synthesis Plan”. Even that plan promised to retain 50% for a park and plenty of land for business development.”

The VanCurler property next to the U.S. Post Office has been vacant for decades but historically has been used to park cars for all major community events downtown. Under the development proposal, only 105 public parking spaces would be built.

The Livonia Builders’ plan also dictates that the Board must use the money from the sale to build the park and the beachfront. Whether the Board can have that requirement removed is uncertain because they are in a weak bargaining position with only one viable developer left. The other developer needs federal funding for assisted housing and their deadline is mid-January, not enough time for the Board to act.

Zelenock urged the Board to “ask the voters” whether they wanted to sell off their park, Dockett suggested a ballot proposal and Gordon asked the Board to “at least send a letter to residents”.

Otto dismissed the ideas and said anyone who objected could “go get their own signatures” for a referendum if they wanted it on the ballot.

Chick said she’d “talked to a lot of people” who wanted housing on the site. She claimed township surveys do not involve enough residents even though one of the park surveys was sent to every taxpayer.

Chockley said surveys are invalid unless they’re “scientific”, though she did her own “non-scientific” last year. She said a “critical mass” of people were needed to revitalize downtown but when asked how many, she had no answer.

More than three years after buying the land, touting an “innovative and dynamic vision” and spending $50-75,000 for planning, the five Trustees are willing to accept a subdivision as their best option.

• With no real “real-world” information about the impacts.
• No property left open for commercial development.
• No idea of how much the beach might cost or even if it’s feasible.
• And without advice from a realtor or an attorney.


1/7/2020 Meeting documents:

1/7/2020 Indexed Northfield Township Board special meeting LivePacket

1/7/2020 Northfield Township Board special meeting packet addendum. This includes the shameful admission that a D rated project was deemed good enough.

1/7/2020 Northfield Township Board of Trustees Special Meeting Packet  - this is the Township original, un indexed



[Editor: When public officials twist and distort facts to serve their political ambitions and personal agendas, when they rob you of your voice and of your rights, you don't have to be polite. There is no basis to respect them or their decision making.]


Don't believe me? You don't believe Jacki Otto is that callous or indifferent?  My interpretation of Otto's language may be snarky, but the swampland offer was real.  Click here to see her offer taxpayers a swamp park.  That was the second meeting in which Otto made that offer.


"Where's the Attorney? Where's Paul Burns?" 

The January 7 meeting began with that question from Trustee Wayne Dockett.

"We're talking about a multi million dollar deal here, of the people's money, and we don't have an attorney present."


So where was our Township's long time Attorney, Paul Burns?

The answer is ugly.

Burns fired Northfield Township.  He fired his worst client.

He fired us.


Burns' final advice, ignored, about handling the 23 acre parkspace treasure that's been bastardized into the North Village Development?

"Mow the grass"

- i.e. Make a Park.


Idiots ignore good advice.  In this meeting idiocy was in full flower.   Nothing would stop them from making motions, committments, offers, counter offers, and wild ass guesses.  Beliger made a motion to sell the land for $1,100,000.  Based on what?  There's been no formal appraisal, nothing to compete with the estimates provided by the developers themselves.  How naive do you have to be to allow buyers to dictate the terms?

The bidding on 75 Barker has reached $420,000.  For a 3/4 acre lot.  That's a clue.

Jackie, Janet, and Chockley loudly told us that they stood by the 40 attendee visioning sessions and working group visions that Planner Lippens massaged into a coherent plan.

But when the 'D' grade proposals came in, they blew off the faults. What visions? They don' need no stinkin' visions.

You can't tell us how wonderful the process is, then ignore the mismatch, the failure of the proposals to meet the goals.  Our goals.

Worst. Negotiators. Ever.

At this meeting Chick admitted that over 300 people voted in the survey showing that two thirds of the community wanted a park - only a park.

Just as unashamedly, or perhaps so clueless she didn't understand the connection, she claimed that the 40 and 50 people who showed up for the visioning sessions were the voices that really mattered.  She claimed that the people whose voices really mattered were those who didn't show up at this barely announced meeting.  ???

Wanna know why this is happening?  Half the the tax money haul, the loot, the bonanza, the jackpot, the filthy lucre, will go to the DDA, an unelected longtime community time sink.

  The DDA is still led by the same Veterinarian, Barb Griffith, who almost 20 years ago schemed to spend $21 million dollars of imaginary DDA tax dollars to build a Territorial Road bridge

  • DDA tax money is skimmed and stolen from the Police Department. 

  • DDA tax money is skimmed and stolen from the Fire Department. 

  • DDA tax money is skimmed and stolen from Medical Rescue.

  • DDA tax money is skimmed and stolen from every public good this community supports. 

  • DDA tax money is skimmed off and stolen from you.

  • And it's handed over to an unelected and unaccountable clique.

 And it's all perfectly legal.

The peak irony?  There will be little downtown left to develop. The guy who owns Pollys is pissed off because the Board won't grease the skids for a proposed expansion.  He's been hoarding parking for years.  Nobody talks about that.  Barker road and its parking lot is up for grabs;  it's gonna be sold.  The "park" development proposals allocate minimal space for actual business because, unsurprisingly, the builders are in the business of building housing. 

You're watching a Keystone Kops of Township Boards Klown-Lording over us, in Chockley's shameful words, a "representative government" that represents only the DDA.



What else happened?

We learned the Township has no attorney.  We learned that the township is attempting this real estate deal without a Real Estate agent. And mother of mercy, does it ever show.

We learned that our smug, bullying, leadership hasn't got a [expletive deleted] clue how to approach anything they're trying to do.







( Below are my annotations to Planner Lippens' cover letter in the 1/6/2020 addendum to the Board meeting packet.)


Simple.  Bury the actual rating, a Grade of D,  under another pile of numbers.  

How well do the two builders proposals match the Township's stated goal?  65 points was a perfect score.  Sadly...

    Livonia Builders scored 45.38.    That's 69%

    AR Brouwer scored 43.13.           That's 66%

Back in High School, scores like those were called 'D's.


"Our" Planner manipulated the scoring. The scores fronted by Lippens are pumped up - to barely a C and C-

The abysmal 'D' scores for, "How well the plans match our stated goals," were added to ratings (guesses) at how

effectively the two developers operate as businesses. 


In other words, how well they can deliver the results we didn't actually want.


 - But that's not the question.

That was never the question.


Wanna know the kicker?  It's item 9, the most telling evaluation of all.  There was almost nothing special about the two proposals. Nothing noteworthy. Nothing outside the box.  Nothing adding to the Lakeside quality of life. Nothing that made the evaluators get up on their hind legs and holler.  Nothing.