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 · Not a Small World After All…
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Not a Small World After All…


Patrick Sullivan - September 3rd, 2013  

After 10 months of struggle and attempts to work within the system, a Leelanau County couple lost their bid to remain in a 240-square-foot home they built as a commitment to the environment and in an effort to live low-impact lives.

The Centerville Township board rejected a recommendation from its planning commission and from the county planning department to eliminate a requirement that homes must contain at least 800 square feet of living space.

The vote in the township just north of Cedar was a disappointment to Rolf and Mari von Walthausen, a couple who had hoped to remain in their rustic cabin on nearly 50 acres.

Now the couple are considering whether to build an 800-square-foot home or put an addition on one of two 240-square-foot cabins they’ve constructed on their land.

Trouble began for the von Walthausens last year, when their dream of living close to nature and with a small footprint was profiled in the Northern Express.

They also presented a workshop called “Build Your Shelter, Rebuild Your Life” at the 2012 Great Lakes Bioneers Traverse City Conference.

The attention set the couple on a course that saw them get cited with a civil infraction for a zoning violation and be refused a variance from the township zoning board of appeals. Ultimately, despite early, optimistic signs, they failed to see through a change in township zoning that would have enabled them to live a simpler, green lifestyle.


Leading up to the July 10 meeting, the von Walthausens believed they had done what they needed to do to ensure what they believe would be a positive change in their township.

They had worked with the county planning department and the township planning board to get a recommendation that Centerville’s 800 square foot minimum be stripped from the books.

The minimum square footage requirement had been put in place in the 1970s when the township, like governments across the state, sought to prevent people from living in trailers.

The trailer industry responded by making their structures slightly bigger and the requirement never accomplished its goal, but remained on the books anyway.

Despite months of study that led to a zoning amendment proposal from the planning commission, the amendment failed when the five member board voted on it on July 10.

The five-member board split 3-2, with treasurer Katrina Pleva and trustee James Schwantes voting for the amendment, and supervisor Leonard Kelenski, clerk David Wurm, and trustee Fred Peplinski voting down the measure.


Planning board chairman Tim Johnson said his board recommended the elimination of the requirement because no one could come up with a reason why a person’s home should be at least 800 square feet.

“The planning commission could not come up with any number that we could reasonably support,” Johnson said. “I personally could not come up with any number that made sense.”

Therefore, Johnson said, it made the most sense to get rid of the minimum.

He said he was surprised and disappointed the board did not approve the amendment.

Supervisor Kelenski used seemingly the inverse logic to support his position that the 800-square-foot minimum should stay in place. He said he wanted to keep it because no one could come up with a reason why it should be removed.

If the minimum were to be removed, the minimum would revert to the minimum allowed in the state’s building code for a residence, which is 120 square feet.

The state minimum apparently became a point of concern for the board members who voted against the amendment.

Wurm, the clerk, said he was concerned that people could build a small, ugly shack and an unlimited number of people could move in.

That makes no sense to Johnson. “I’ve said all along that a big ugly house is way worse than a small ugly house,” Johnson said.


The von Walthausens believe they have been punished for going public with their project before they got approval from the township.

Kelenski denies that the board dealt retribution to the von Walthausens when they voted against them.

“It’s been in effect for 30 years,” he said. “To change it for one customer, one resident, it seems kind of absurd.”

Kalenski said he would consider lowering the square footage requirement to something below 800, but he doesn’t want to eliminate it entirely and let the state building code minimum prevail.

“I think it’s served us well before,” he said. “Maybe it should be reduced to 500 or something like that.”

Kalenski said something the size of what the von Walthausen’s home -- 240 square feet -- was too small.

“You may as well not even call it a house.” he said.

That said, he said he had looked at the von Walthausens place from the outside and agreed it is an attractive little house.

“It’s a neat looking little bungalow or cabin whatever you want to call it, but that’s no guarantee that everybody will build one to that perfection,” Kalenski said.


Wurm, the clerk, said he was at first in favor of reducing the minimum square footage requirement. He said he didn’t want the minimum eliminated, however.

He believes if the minimum is reduced it could allow young families to build homes.

When the planning commission recommended eliminating the minimum altogether in favor of the state minimum, Wurm said he switched his position.

“Even though it was a very difficult decision, it made it very easy for me,” he said. “What came back was, ‘Let’s just get out of the business completely, and let’s just take all requirements away, and you can just build whatever you want.’” Wurm said he believes the minimum should be at least 400 square feet.

“I don’t think you can get a loan for something less than the 400-square-foot size,” Wurm said. “It defeated, as a board member, what I really wanted to provide for the township, which was, ‘Let’s allow people to get smaller homes.’” Rolf von Walthausen noted at the August board meeting that he could now purchase a run-down trailer for $1 on Craigslist, have it hauled to his land, and as long as it was over 800 square feet, he’d be legal.

Wurm said the von Walthausens are welcome to carry out their (joking) threat to purchase a junk trailer, because if they did that, at least they would be living within the township rules.

“I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy the thought that someone would do that, but he is within the ordinance,” Wurm said.

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