Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Ruffled Feathers
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Ruffled Feathers

Anne Stanton - May 10th, 2010
Ruffled Feathers:Wings of Wonder fights Leelanau Road Commission plan to shoot down bird sanctuary
By Anne Stanton
Spirits soared like an eagle at the Wings of Wonder (WOW) bird
sanctuary last week, thanks to a forthcoming restraining order against
the Leelanau County Road Commission, whose actions threatened the
existence of the bird sanctuary and raptor hospital.
On Thursday, WOW founder Rebecca Lessard announced that Judge Thomas
Power of the 13th Circuit Court would be signing a restraining order
against the road commission, which had ruled that a narrow two-track
that runs through the Lessards’ remote home and bird sanctuary in the
forest east of Empire was a public road, available for access by
In recent weeks, persons driving through the Wings of Wonder compound
have frightened the birds recovering in a huge pen which stands just a
few feet from the driveway. Lessard has said that it’s unlikely that
WOW would be able to continue its wildlife rehabilitation mission
under such circumstances, because the frightened birds batter
themselves against the walls of their enclosure.
But last Thursday in her blog, wingsofwonder.blogspot.com, Lessard
shared good news with hundreds of supporters:
“We are now allowed to put our gates back up and the Road
Commissioners has to replace the original signage (Dead End and No
Outlet signs) PLUS put up PRIVATE DRIVEWAY signs! This is all great
news... and so reassuring that now we can once again provide a quiet
and safe sanctuary for the raptors. My continued thanks to you all;
for your letters, your financial pledges, your calls, and your warm
embraces. The ‘game’ is not over, but at least the Road Commission has
been stopped at this point in time.”

WOW’s conflict with the road commission goes back several years and
involves some odd twists.
Lessard’s Wings of Wonder was founded as an education-oriented
nonprofit that rehabilitates 25-75 wounded raptors each year.
Lessards presents over 120 educational programs each year, reaching
over 8,000 people, including many school children. She has earned
numerous “person of the year” awards from groups ranging from the Boy
Scouts and NMEAC to the Michigan Audubon Society.
The raptors are kept in huge enclosures near the Lessards’ home,
nestled in a wilderness area on Wells Lake.  To get to their compound,
you need to turn onto South Gilbert Road from M-72. The pavement is
short and quickly turns into a two-track, which runs about .7 miles
before reaching the Lessard property. The two-track goes through the
Lessard’s yard and continues all the way through to Beeman Road.
It’s that long two-track, which is at issue. Once upon a time, the
public drove on the two-tracks that crisscrossed several hundred acres
of property just south of M-72 near Empire. Lessard and her husband,
Don, moved to one of the parcels in1999 and signed a deed, registered
at the courthouse, that delineated the two-track leading to their home
as a private easement, beginning where the pavement ends. As such, the
two-track would not be maintained or plowed by the Leelanau County
Road Commission.
Knowing that, they built a garage about eight feet off the two-track
and raptor enclosures less than five feet off from what they
considered their driveway. They also put up “no trespassing” signs,
private property signs, and private driveway signs in 1999.
So it came as a shock, shortly after the raptor rescue at Glen’s
Landfil, when Rebecca arrived home and saw a new “Seasonal Road” sign.
She soon discovered that Glen Noonan, the original owner of the
landfill, pushed for the decision. He refused comment for the article.

Lessard immediately thought of her raptors’ sensitivity to noise and
intruders. She recalled a time when three families trespassed onto the
property and put their hands on the wire enclosures. A newly captured
eagle was so frantic to escape, she bloodied her face and wings trying
to escape. “I was so upset when I came upon them, I almost threw up,”
Rebecca said.
For the last two years, the couple has fought the road commission’s
decision—attending meetings, filing a legal petition, and putting up a
gate in July of 2009 to block off their driveway. Yet the road
commission voted against their petition and two weeks ago the Leelanau
County prosecutor issued a “cease and desist” order to force them to
stop using the gate. The couple responded last week with a lawsuit and
the request for a temporary restraining order to allow them to close
the gate. Rebecca also blasted an email asking people to write letters
and contribute to legal costs.
“The road commission has taken what’s called adverse possession of our
road, and now we have to spend thousands to prove we own it. I don’t
see how this can be right. It’s really scary,” Don said. “We followed
all the rules and regulations. To use the prosecuting attorney to come
after us, I’m dumbfounded. I can’t believe it.”

The Lessards bought their property from the late Barbara Cruden, an
elderly woman who built a cabin in 1990 (the cabin now serves as the
raptor hospital).
After Cruden built the cabin, she blocked off her property from what
she considered trespassers, partly because some were dumping trash and
eroding the lake’s sandy banks. The Kasson Township Planning
Commission in 1991required her to provide a name for her private road
that began where the pavement ended. She called it Greenway Road and
agreed to maintain the two-track.
In 1992, Cruden signed an easement agreement with Cherryland Electric
to have electricity brought to her home. Cherryland did a title search
to ensure the two-track was private before burying an electric cable
down the entire center of Greenway.
The road commission posted a dead-end sign at South Gilbert Road. When
the Lessards bought the property in 1999, Rebecca called the county
road commission and asked for a dead-end sign at the end of Beeman
Road because people occasionally drove through her property. Herb
Cradduck, manager of the road commission, agreed. He told the
*Express* that he didn’t know at the time the two-track was public.
It wasn’t only Cradduck who believed the road to be private. When the
Lessards applied for permits and passed inspections for a garage and
the raptor homes, the zoning administrator never discussed setback
requirements that normally apply to a public road.
The two-track only gained the attention of the road commission after
Cradduck’s neighbor decided to log her property in 2008. Rebecca asked
the logging trucks to come in from the Beeman Road entrance so her
raptors wouldn’t be disturbed. After the logging was done, the road
into the Lessards’ backyard was much more accessible. As a favor, her
neighbor put two large logs across the easement to block access into
the Lessards’ backyard from the Beeman Road side.

That’s when Cradduck had the “Seasonal Road” sign erected and ordered
the log barrier removed. If the Lessards wanted to challenge the
decision, they’d have to come to the next road commission meeting. To
prepare for the meeting, they researched the chain of deeds at the
courthouse. Every one of them, going back to 1970, listed the
two-track as a private easement, she said.
Lessard thought the research would quickly persuade the commissioners
to change their minds. Instead, the commissioners told stories of how
they used to drive the two tracks to get to their favorite mushroom or
hunting sites.
The Lessards were told they should have checked with the road
commission before building their garage and raptor enclosures.
Further, they were told that the two-track came into county ownership
under the McNitt Act, a law in the 1930s that transferred ownership of
roads from  townships to counties, Johnson contended.
Eventually, the road commission backed off its justification of the
McNitt Act.  Instead they discussed the legal theory of  “highway by
user,” which says any road used by the public *and* maintained by the
road commission for 10 years is a de facto public road. They said
early maps show Gilbert Road was established prior to the 1930s and
used by the original Wells family, and reportedly other people in the
Following the public hearing, the road commission’s attorney issued an
opinion, saying the two-track is a county road, which cannot be
refuted by a private agreement. The Lessards did not attend the next
January 5 road commission meeting, where commissioners Glen Noonan,
Lee Bowen, and John Popa voted to deny the petition for abandonment.
Despite the decision, the Lessards continued to block the two-track
with a gate. The road commission, frustrated by the couple’s refusal
to comply, requested the Leelanau County prosecutor to order the
Lessards to stop blocking the two-track.
Meanwhile, the Lessards suspect that Noonan began telling people to
drive through their yard.
“Maybe in a given year, we have two cars drive through, people who are
lost.  But last week alone, we had nine cars that we saw. Three of
those were road commission cars or trucks. A week ago Sunday at 8
p.m., a silver Tacoma pick-up drives into our yard, past our gate.
There are two young men in their 20s.”
In the course of the conversation, the driver told Don that Noonan had
sent him there. “He said, ‘There was really good mushroom hunting here
and to come on down.’”
Noonan refused comment.
Another older driver told Rebecca he was told there was land for sale.
And then on April 27, at 9 p.m., she saw headlights come out of the
“This dumpy red car is racing through our yard at 45 mph, slams on our
brakes and tears through our open gate.”
The Lessards suspect the car was sent to intentionally plow through
the gate in order to file a lawsuit. “Now we’ve chained the gate open.
That’s how freaked out and paranoid we are,” Rebecca said.

The Lessard’s lawsuit, filed by attorney Jeff Jocks, contends that
this case doesn’t meet the highway by use standard—certainly not in
the last 20 years.
Now the road commission has to hire and pay an attorney for a hearing
in 13th Circuit Court. The cost of an attorney isn’t covered by the
road commission’s insurance since damages aren’t sought, so taxpayers
will pick up the tab.Lessard said the road commission should have
collected the evidence *before* deciding the two-track was public,
which has already cost the couple $6,800 for an attorney, security
surveillance, signs, and the gate.
Lessard said the larger point is one of fairness. For the last 11
years, no one ever said the road was public—not Kasson Township, not
Cherryland Electric, not the legally filed deed. The abrupt
decision—with no documentation or proof— threatened to shut down Wings
of Wonder.
Jim Johnson, the road commission’s engineer, said he has no proof that
the two-track was publicly used and maintained for 10 years because
the Lessards just filed their lawsuit.
But why didn’t he come up with proof before this?
“In 2008, we asked the attorney for an opinion,” Johnson explained,
“and his opinion was this was a public road, and we took him at his
word. We believe it’s our road, but we don’t have a list of things
readily available. We have to compile those things. If she is right,
and we are wrong, we’ll admit it.”
Johnson said the Lessards should have communicated better with the
road commission.
“We tried communicating in the past, and we didn’t get anything back.
I know of more than one occasion when we attempted to conduct a
meaningful discussion, and we tried to do that with an open mind,”
Johnson said.
The Lessards said they were the ones who initiated the phone calls,
repeatedly spoke at meetings, and the public hearing. But it’s all
been futile.
“They haven’t listened to us at all,” Don Lessard said. “The road
commission started the mess by suddenly declaring our private easement
as a public road and slapping up a ‘Seasonal Road’ sign without
talking to us first.”

Editor Robert Downes contributed to this story.

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