Residents in Portsmouth, Michigan submitted the following field report this week: “We have formed a group called : “Friends of Portsmouth Township” to combat a proposed Wal-Mart 182,000 s.f. supercenter in the middle of a beet field. The farmer, his wife, and a representative of Wal-Mart have applied to the township board to have 38 acres rezoned from agricultural to commercial. Wal-Mart has not come forward to announce their intentions , but by talking to the surveyors in the field we have determined that it definitely is a Wal-Mart. The land has been farmland for over 100 years and is adjacent to the scenic rail trail. This land is also next to an historic 90 year old farmhouse and other residential properties. In addition, the land is enrolled in Public Act 116, which was created in Michigan to preserve farmland and prevent urban sprawl. However the farmer has now applied to the township and the State for early termination of his PA 116 agreement. The township deferred their decision to the State. The State decision is pending to see if the land gets rezoned to commercial. Farmers may enroll for an initial 10 year agreement term and then extended for 7 year increments. The Act enables a farm owner to enter into a development rights Agreement with the State. The agreement is designed to ensure that the land remains in an agricultural use for a minimum of 10 years and ensures that the land is not developed for a non-agricultural use. In return for maintaining the land in an agricultural use, the landowner is entitled to certain income tax benefits, and the land is not subject to special assessments. A few provisions exist to allow enrolled farmland to be released early for the agreement. These provisions are designed to accommodate unusual and extenuating circumstances including death or disability of the Agreement holder, a lot for the construction of a house for a person essential to the farm, factors which would render the farmland economically unviable, factors that would restrict farming , or a lot with preexisting buildings. The farmer enrolled this land in 2002 and the Agreement does not expire until 2009! Portsmouth township is a small farming community with 3,619 people. Most of the land is open farmland with a few homes. Only 1.7% is commercial. Friends of Portsmouth township want to see our community avoid mega sprawl and all of its vices: crime, pollution, traffic, loss of higher paying union jobs, loss of peace and the serenity we desire, lowering of home values, etc. We already have a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the city 4 miles from the proposed new site out in the county. Is Wal-Mart planning on abandoning the other store if they get to build a new one? We believe the land should remain farmland. Michigan lost 350,000 acres of farmland in the last 10 years to urban-sprawl. It would also be in the best interests of the businesses and people in our community. There are a lot of smaller businesses that would close, and people who would lose their higher paying jobs. A cashier at the local Kroger foodstore told us yesterday she would not be able to afford her apartment if Wal-Mart comes in. Who needs another Wal-Mart, when we have one 4 miles away?”
This new citizens group is asking for help. They need volunteers and contributions. Mail to: Friends of Portsmouth Township, P.O. box 40, Munger, MI, 48747 Phone: 989 895-7400.