Editorial: Lawmakers should respect home rule
There should be clear limits on the state's ability to impose its will on local communities. Michigan is, after all, a home rule state, and that means its cities and counties have great leeway in deciding what goes on within their boundaries.
Or at least that's how it should work.
The Michigan Legislature is constantly chipping away at local control to bend communities to its will.
They're at it again in the current lame duck legislative session, this time trying to strip the locals of zoning oversight over mining operations.
A bill triggered by an attempt by the village of Metamora in Lapeer County to restrict the development of a new gravel pit is now before lawmakers. Hearings were held Tuesday.
If passed, it would take away the authority of all communities statewide to use zoning ordinances to either block or limit mining.
Sponsors believe the unfettered extraction of natural resources is such a compelling societal good that local officials should stay completely out of the way.
In Metamora, officials don't want a gravel pit on 500 acres once occupied by the D-Bar-A Boy Scout Camp. The dispute has been ongoing for more than a decade, and was the genesis of an earlier law, Public Act 113. The act restricted the use of zoning ordinances to block mining operations unless a community could demonstrate "very serious consequences."
Metamora believes it can do that, citing noise, traffic and impact on infrastructure and groundwater. Courts have upheld that position.
So the Legislature wants to put its thumb on the scale again with the proposed law to tightly tie the hands of local governments in regards to mining.
Lawmakers should stay out of this. Without passing judgment on whether the gravel pit in Metamora would negatively impact the village, its officials and citizens should have the right, within reasonable limits, to act in the best interests of their community.
Property owners have rights, too. Zoning shouldn't be used as a back-door means of taking their property by making it worthless to them.
But under existing law, there is an appeals process that allows property owners to challenge zoning decisions in court, using the standard set by PA 113.
Upsetting that balance by taking away all authority from the local governments to act in what they see as the best interest of their communities is an affront to home rule.
Lawmakers should walk away from these bills and let the status quo stand.