Friday, April 25, 2008

You can look at me like you hate me. I'll look back at you with stubborn resolve at the heart of which is love.
You can narrow your eyes, avert your eyes, refuse to look me in the eye. But when you're ready to look at me, I'll still be looking at you.
You can treat me like I'm not in the room or not even in your life. But I'm not leaving the room, and even if I do, I'm not leaving your life.
You can be silent. Lock yourself away in your room or tap on your keyboard and pretend I don't exist while you while away the minutes, hours, days doing nothing. I'll keep listening to make sure you're there and that you're OK.
You can sob and pull on my heart strings so damn hard I physically hurt standing up tall despite the strain. I'll set the tissue box within your reach, and when you're not looking I'll go sob my heart out too.
You can make me wonder if I really am the bad guy. If I'm evil. If I'm mean for pushing you to do the right thing. For not backing down and letting you get away with being weak or making poor choices. I'm not perfect either, and I know that.

But I will not let you not be a man.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Up next, Jenna chains herself to a tree

(Sent to neighbors4serenity)

I and 4 other neighbors attended tonight's (Monday) Planning Commission meeting. Here are some of my observations:

The case before the commission was a public hearing for an individual requesting a special permit to build an outbuilding on his property--basically a workshop and storage for ATV's, tractor, etc. There were photos, site plans, and Steve Peterson had made a site visit as well to walk the property and view the surrounding properties. The board asked if they had received any letters or phone calls about this case, and there had been none.

Steve's recommendation to the board was that the structure was within the guidelines of the township, and the building and materials used "would fit in with the neighborhood".

Not on the agenda, but Steve asked for the board's impromptu feedback about a bank that is being built on the Meijer lot (Kraft & 28th st) wondering how the township would feel about their adding a 4th drive-thru lane and or a stand-alone ATM onto their site. Some of the board comments about this idea were:
  • "I'm most concerned about NOT creating a traffic hazard
  • "The sight is already so tight"
  • "I don't know how much more we can really fit..."
  • "I'm afraid we've been trying to develop [this site] for the developer. I think they need to bring us a plan and we say yes or no"
  • "I'm more concerned about the traffic flow"
  • "That's enough. It's like putting a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe"
I got the impression that they don't really want to interrupt traffic, cram things in, create safety hazards, etc. It gave me a warm fuzzy in regards to the concerns we have for the Tassel parcel being jam-pack-crammed with living spaces.

After the meeting, I asked Steve Peterson if we can expect responses to the letters we've written. He said there's really no way for anyone to respond to them as they have not yet received or seen an actual plan from the developer. He said he would be collecting the letters to copy and give to the board before the public hearing so that they would be informed on how the community feels about the project.

He assured me that the Halland proposal he had seen thus far was nothing more than a sketch with not even measurements etc written in on it, hence why they had asked him to get more detailed information before returning to them with a plan. One of the other board members standing nearby to listen to our conversation asked if I was on Windcrest (yes) and said that they are getting the feeling that there are quite a few people very passionate about this project. They said the original drawing had 97 homes on the site, then tried to remember if it was 103...I mentioned that the latest we had seen/heard was 101 homes. I also mentioned that the ponds keep moving--which got a laugh out of both members.

I mentioned that I hoped they got the impression that yes, a lot of us are very passionate, but it's because we care. I asked what we could be doing to best come alongside the board and work together on the potential development of this site, and Steve said that we don't need to come to all the meetings (we are certainly welcome, though)--he (meaning Halland) won't sneak in and get something approved at the last minute as there are deadlines to get on the agenda etc. He said that if we are organized for the public hearing--as in have a spokesperson from each neighborhood concerned, that will be best. Also in the area of letters, brevity is best (that's HIS recommendation...not mine;-).

I asked if there's anything else we can do, and he said "get on the board...there are spaced open...turn in your name." So...anyone want to volunteer?

All in all, I got a really good feeling that we probably have more on our side than we are anticipating--not to disband and let what will be just be, but at least they are getting a sense that we are "out there", that we are passionate, involved, concerned, and to keep doing what we are doing.

Also--there is a Planning Comission Board Open House at the library Tuesday night 5:30-7pm. Same time as the watershed meeting--which Steve affirmed that storm management water and run-off is a huge issue in the Tassel/Halland proposal. So let's really work that storm water management angle as much as possible! And get people out to talk to the board members, they aren't unapproachable at all--they want to hear from us and serve us the best they know how.

Hope this is a pat on the back to a lot of you as well as a shot in the arm to keep it up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The baby doll

artist (pronounced 'ar-teest') in Duff's bakery i am not, but able to take the old Wilton Raggedy Anne cake pan from 1971 and turn it into Addison's baby doll birthday cake i am.

I borrowed a recipe called "One bowl chocolate cake" from Jean and modified it just a bit to cut the sugar in half (this a cake for a 2-year old people, kids don't need sugar!), add a little bit of health (using olive oil and some rye flour instead of all white processed stuff) and give it some zing with a bit of fresh grated lemon zest. It was delicious. I don't know anyone at the party that didn't have two pieces!

I've never gone wrong with mom's recipe for vanilla butter frosting. And making the icing and decorating this bad boy...or baby under an hour amazes me. Imagine what I could have done if I had taken my time, and been able to do it without a "helping" 3 year old on the counter getting into all the tips, bags, colors, icing, candy, etc. or a crying 23 month old in one arm for most of the time!

addi bday 003Enough bragging about myself. I need to go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow and bask in memories of my last birth experience...that's another brag session in itself...and the child that has been a surprise and delight of gargantuan proportion. Addison Mabel, every birthday of yours will be happy for me because of the constant joy you bring to my life. I love you more than words can say, my little baby doll.
Birthday cake!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yeah--it fits

After taking the Facebook "Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?" quiz, I realized I had not read or seen the Jane Austen novel whose heroine I most resembled.

So I read it at the cabin in about 2 days. I LOVED the book, and think I do quite resemble the heroine in many aspects. It's not spot on, but pretty close. Close enough to give me a chuckle.

I thoroughly enjoyed the wit Austen employed in this novel and would recommend you read it rather than the other well-known of her novels. This one is more unique, I think.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dear Township Board Members,

I am writing to present my concerns regarding the proposed development of the Tassel property into a high density housing complex called “Oak Park”.

My family and I moved to Cascade township in 2004. We moved here from Grand Rapids township because we liked the ambiance Cascade township provided—mainly that of unique homes on large wooded lots with an abundance of natural surroundings. We wanted to live in a place that was safe for raising children, where neighbors and community were part of our everyday life, and where we could be close to work, church, and good schools without being jam-packed up against neighbors the way we were in GR township.

When we chose our home on Windcrest street, we asked what the large tract of land at the top was, and were told it was the Tassel property—and that it would never be developed because it was protected land.
That's why we were shocked and dismayed to get the flier from Halland Homes outlining a garish housing complex that would turn our quiet cul-de-sac of a street into a veritable through-way for construction vehicles and ultimately upwards of 1,000 cars per day.

We had planned to live in this house for the duration of our lives (we are 31 with 3 small children), but have put a screeching halt on all of our planned home renovations until we hear the outcome of the township's decision on this development. We are afraid of the negative impact the actual construction will wreak on our homes as well as the fiscal decline all the surrounding neighborhoods will inevitably suffer if this development is authorized by the township in its current proposed form.

My biggest fear and absolute nightmare is that Windcrest will not only be used as a construction entrance during the construction phase, but even if it is initially deemed only an “emergency entrance/exit”, it will soon become just a through street to 1,000 plus cars. [PUD 16.02(4)], [PUD 16.03(3.b)], [PUD 16.04(5.d, 5.g]

The only relief in this situation for us is knowing you are there. You are Cascade township residents just like we are looking out for the best interest of your constituents and the township as a whole. When we placed the Halland Homes site plan next to the Cascade township zoning ordinance, we could clearly see that they did not line up. That gave us hope that this project could not come to fruition as proposed because you had already created guidelines to protect residents from having their properties infringed upon and from developers being allowed to change the landscape and aesthetic of the township simply to maximize their profit margins. Thank you for protecting us by having these rules and regulations in place so that land is not simply developed for the profit of others at our expense!

1.To encourage the use of land in accordance with its character and adaptability.
Halland stated that they will first need to “clear cut” the site and “site balance” it in order to build a development. This clearly wipes the land clean of any character it might have boasted of. [PUD 16.03(2.b, 2.c), [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.a, 5.b, 5.e, 5.f, 5.i, 5.j, 5.k)]
Home sites will need to be retro-fitted for walk-out basements, which do not naturally occur with the landscape of this parcel, but rather because in Halland's words, “no one wants a flat house anymore, so to make walk-outs we have to scoop out dirt to make 'em.” [PUD 16.03(2.b, 2.c)], [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.j)]
The character of the current property is lush ground cover, trees, wildlife habitat, and pond areas—these will need to be removed and rearranged in order to replace them with proposed homes and recreational areas rather than building between and around the current natural landscape.[PUD 16.03(2.b, 2.c,2.d)], [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.a, 5.b, 5.e, 5.h, 5.i, 5.j, 5.k)]
Adaptability—the biggest hurdle is getting water to the home sites by tapping into current water pipes as well as damming, burming, piping, and using ponds to keep natural run-off from the site from running onto other properties. It makes no sense to me to have to force all of the water re-distribution proposed to make this home site work. Hence, the adaptability of this land for such high density home sites is not inherent.[PUD 16.03(2.b, 2.d)], [PUD 16.04(1,4)], [PUD 16.04(5.a, 5.b, 5.c, 5.f, 5.k)]

2.To promote the conservation of natural features and resources.
Halland will be clear-cutting this land, removing and chipping all the trees on it then shipping the chips off-site. [PUD 16.03(2.b)], [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.a, 5.b, 5.e, 5.f, 5.i, 5.j, 5.k)]
Wildlife will be displaced. (We were told not to say anything about the deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, hawks, mice, spiders, bugs, snakes, etc., so I am not going to mention any of them) [PUD 16.03(2.b)], [PUD 16.04(4)]
Current water-holding areas will be “moved” and re-created to allow the housing development.[PUD 16.03(2.b)], [PUD 16.04(1,4)], [PUD 16.04(5.c, 5.k)]
There will be nothing “natural” left—everything on this entire site will be manufactured—even and especially the “common areas” and “open space”. We asked if Mr. Halland would transplant any of the trees on site and he said no.[PUD16.03(2.b)], [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.i, 5.j, 5.k)]
One of the most important natural resources on the Tassell property is the ground which acts as a natural water filter for those of us whose homes subsist on well water. I shudder to think what the water filling our wells would be like should this development be approved—no longer having the 80 acres of natural filtration and now dealing with toxic fertilizers, chemicals, nitrates, phosphates etc. the residents and caretakers of these homes may choose to use on their homes and properties or would naturally occur form their day-to-day existence in these homes.[PUD 16.03(2.a, 2.b, 2.c, 2.d,2.e)], [PUD 16.04(4)]
Should wells become tainted or poisoned as a result of this development, will well-water residents be forced to hook up to city water at their own expense? [PUD 16.03(2.b)]
Today we had a rainy day. I snapped pictures of water streaming down Windcrest. I cannot imagine the floodwaters that would roll down our street every time it rains should the 80 acres at the top be developed into concrete slabs that do not absorb water, sloped and designed to make it run off from their properties. [PUD 16.03(2.b. 2.d)], [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.b, 5.c, 5.k)]

3.To encourage innovation in land use planning and development.
There is nothing innovative about cramming as many homes as you can onto a plot of land for your own personal gain and at the great expense of everyone in the surrounding vicinity. [PUD 16.03(2.a, 2.d)], [PUD 16.04(1, 4)], [PUD 16.04(5.g, 5.i, 5.k)]
There is no intentional site-integration planning involved in this proposal, simply the most quick-fix and biggest bang-for-your-buck type of plan that will bring a quick flow of cash, but in the long run be a costly and ghastly mistake. [PUD 16.03(2.a,2.d)], [PUD 16.04(1, 4)], [PUD 16.04(5.g, 5.i, 5.k)]
This land would be a perfect opportunity to try to attract people of the creative class to Michigan—by luring them with beautiful, creative, unique homes set in a ethereal forest-like setting. Not repel them with pre-fab-like row houses. [PUD 16.03.(2.e)], [PUD 16.04(5.e, 5.k)]

4.To promote the enhancement of housing, employment, shopping, traffic circulation and recreational opportunities for the people of the Township.
It is obvious that flooding the current housing market with more supply when there isn't even any demand will only drive down housing values. [PUD 16.03(2.d)], [PUD 16.04(5)
Currently, there is one buyer for every 12.5 sellers (that is for all of Kent County and adjoining counties). For the past two plus years we have been in a double digit buyer to seller ratio which may not mean anything to some people unless they are aware that about four years ago we were running ratios in the high sixes to mid eights back when the market was healthy and the housing market was peaking. As the last page of the report demonstrates, the majority of homes selling in the area are homes under $150,000 (a whopping 75%!), if any builder is saying that new $300,000-$500,000 homes are moving the best, I would have to beg to differ and ask for some documentation. My figures are straight from the Multiple Listing Service of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors of which this builder is a member. (Kim Paavola, Greenridge Realty-Cascade)
When I go to the MLS and search all sold properties in Forest Hills schools from 4/1/07 to 4/1/08, here is the breakdown of homes sold in various price ranges: --$0 - $150,000 = 104 homes sold --$150,000 - $300,00 = 316 homes --$300,000 - $500,000 = 161 homes --$500,000+ = 65 homes. This includes both new and existing homes, again if any builder is claiming that $300,000 to $500,000 is the most active, then I'm not seeing it. That being said I will agree that a good portion of the market in that price range is attracted to new homes but of the 161 homes that sold in the $300K to $500K range mentioned above, 117 of them were two years old or older. Certainly not every new home that was sold was listed but I think saying that new homes in the $300K to $500K range are selling the best is an ambitious statement. (Kim Paavola, Greenridge Realty-Cascade)
This unsightly design does not in any way enhance housing for anyone in the Township.[PUD 16.03(2.c, 2.d)] , [PUD 16.04(1)], [PUD 16.04(5)
Traffic on roads around this proposal are already in various states of disrepair and crowding. Adding upwards of 1,000 cars per day will increase traffic circulation problems and multiply safety issues necessitating an increase in public service entities.[PUD 16.03(2.b)], [PUD 16.04(1)], [PUD 16.04(5.f, 5.g, 5.h, 5.k)]
There are no recreational opportunities presented in this plan for people of the Township. As a gated community, only inhabitants of the community will be able to use the recreational areas of the development. [PUD 16.03(2.a)], [PUD 16.04(4)], [PUD 16.04(5.e, 5.f, 5.h, 5.k)],
The incorporation of the bike path with the entrance to the development sounds like a certain death-trap rather than a sage design in safety for the welfare of walkers, joggers, bikers, etc that regularly use the bike path. [PUD 16.03(2.a, 2.b)], [PUD 16.04(1,4)], [PUD 16.04(5.d, 5.g)]

5.To promote and ensure greater compatibility of design and use between neighboring properties.
All the properties on the surrounding areas enjoy large, private, wooded lots. Living on Windcrest, which has the smallest lots of all the surrounding properties, we enjoy our own vegetation, privacy via a large amount of trees, homes staggered down the hill so that we are not looking into each others' windows, as well as a generous amount of land between each home. Not to mention each home is unique in design and layout in accordance with the flow of the land—for instance our home has a walkout basement because the slope of the hill allows it while our next door neighbors do not have a walkout basement because their slice of land does not. [PUD 16.03(2.c)], [PUD 16.04(1,4)], [PUD 16.04(5.a, 5.b, 5.d, 5.e, 5.f, 5.g, 5.h, 5.i, 5.j, 5.k)]
This afternoon I drove around to look at other homes and lots around the Tassel property. What Halland is proposing could not be more different and incompatible with what is currently in that area. Cookie cutter homes on a flattened section of land cleared of all trees and vegetation has no place in this township—in fact it reminded me more of the side of town I moved away from—Kentwood.[PUD 16.03(2.c)], [PUD 16.04(1,4)], [PUD 16.04(5.a, 5.b, 5.d, 5.e, 5.f, 5.g, 5.h, 5.i, 5.j, 5.k)]

On a positive note, I like the idea of employing a local developer. In Michigan's current economic state, I am thrilled to keep as much work “in house” as possible. I believe one of Mr. Halland's residences lies within Cascade township, which I assume means he has a vested interest in the look, feel, and aesthetic of the township he and his family live in. I would hope that profit generated from this project might be recycled back into the township. I have heard second and third-hand that Mr. Halland is a good developer, builds beautiful houses and is good to work with in selling and closing on homes, yet I have also read articles lambasting him for despoiling coastal dunes and beaches and that The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating possible criminal charges against Halland. (Muskegon Chronicle, June 7, 2007).

I believe the currently proposed development does not in any way, shape, or form coincide with Cascade township ordinances for developing within the look and feel of our township's aesthetic. I also fear many greatly negative ripple effects fiscally, naturally, to traffic patterns, safety especially to bike path users and Windcrest residents, and emotionally to the residents surrounding the entire perimeter to the proposed Oak Park development.

In the Spring 2008 Cascade Connections newsletter, one of your goals is to “Continue to seek and aggressively pursue large tracts of land for open spaces preservation. Seek additional opportunities for public and private partnerships in this.” The property in question for proposed development would make a fabulous open space, park, or bike path crossroads for the people of Cascade township to enjoy. Has this line of inquiry been pursued?

Thank you for receiving and representing our common concerns in regard to this proposed development.


The Scott Family—Jennifer & Dan, Liam, Ellison, Addison
7114 Windcrest St SE