2017-04-20 / News

Tractors in subdivisions?

Planning Commission considers regulations
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

CLAYTON TOWNSHIP – The Clayton Township Planning Commission is trying to puzzle out an unusual conundrum.

Some years ago, developers found that home buyers were drawn to the rural ambiance of the township. So, they bought up some wide-open spaces and drew up some plans to build a bunch of houses. Their plans were to grow these new neighborhoods in phases.

Then the housing crash and economic slump brought a lot of those plans to a sudden halt a decade ago. And the land that was earmarked for later phases of development has been sitting fallow ever since.

Planning Commissioner Ted Henry, who also serves as the township’s zoning administrator and building inspector, said he’s recently received calls from people interested in purchasing some of those vacant tracts.

“We have six or seven developments that are incomplete,” said Henry. “My concern is, who buys it next and what are they going to do with it.”

“Someone could put a farm in and drive tractors through the subdivision,” said Commissioner Robert Widigan.

That could become a nuisance for the folks who live in the subdivision, and it could damage the roads that were built with vehicles like grocery-getters in mind.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Farm implements are allowed on public roads, but they’re not governed by the same laws as other vehicles.

“A truck can throw mud and we can bust them,” said Commissioner and township Clerk Dennis Milem. “A tractor can throw mud, and we can’t bust them.”

“Weight and width limits don’t apply to combines,” Commissioner Ryan Bower added.

To further complicate matters, the state’s Right to Farm law is in a state of flux, only partially in effect and under revision, Bower noted.

And there’s another factor to consider.

“We’re a farming community,” said Commission Chairman Kevin DePottey.

Township attorney Ken Tucker said the township has a right to put a guard rail at the end of any road, which could block access to the fields.

But DePottey recommends taking a different approach while waiting to see what happens with Right to Farm.

“If we get a complaint, we try to work it out with the farmer,” he said.

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