Governor signs bill for statewide appropriations

Bill will impact Clinton Township

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 28, 2019

 Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In February 2018, a group of neighbors who live in the Clinton River Spillway neighborhood voiced their concerns when a new housing development looked viable from the vantage point of Macomb County.

More than a year later, after numerous statewide bills, grants and back-and-forth between residents and elected officials, it seems as if those in the spillway area can breathe a sigh of relief.

On May 14, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill No. 4244 making, supplementing and adjusting appropriations for statewide capital outlay projects. Clinton Township will benefit by receiving $175,000 toward a $250,000 acquisition of residential property surrounding George George and Woodrow Woody parks.

The township is also receiving $264,600 for a $378,000 acquisition of 6.3 acres of vacant land near the Clinton River Spillway for public outdoor recreation purposes.

Angst began back in October 2017, when members of the Clinton River Spillway Inter-County Drain Drainage Board discussed possible scenarios of how to maintain the land, or even sell off parcels for future housing development.

That led to people like Dana Duggar, who has lived on nearby Suburban Street since 1981, and his neighbors attending the drain board’s November meeting and voicing their displeasure.

As a result, other elected officials — including state Rep. Bill Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, and Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem — jumped in and began a dialogue with Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller on how to resolve the issues without negatively impacting the neighborhood.

In March 2018, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees voted 6-0 to move forward with grant applications for the two properties receiving dollars in the statewide bill.

On March 7 of this year, the state House of Representatives unanimously passed an appropriations bill that includes funding for the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, allocating a gross $26.04 million appropriation for statewide capital outlay projects. The act is for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019.

The state Senate then unanimously approved the appropriations, leading to the governor’s stamp of approval.

“We realized what a great project this would be, but acquiring the dollars is always an unknown factor,” Sowerby said. “In the end, it turned out great. We’re bringing dollars not only into Macomb County, but into Clinton Township.”

He said he has stayed in contact with residents, such as Duggar, about future phases of the project and how to use the funding in a pragmatic manner. Currently, there is a “waiting game” as to when the dollars will be available.

Gieleghem said the entire process has served as a “prime example of what can be accomplished” when elected government officials listen to the concerns of residents. After he and Sowerby walked the spillway property, conversations with Miller and her team escalated.

“Township directors, engineers and grant writers got to work, and the state of Michigan came through with the matching grant dollars we needed,” Gieleghem said. “This is a huge step forward in ramping up our efforts to preserve open spaces and expand recreational opportunities for Clinton Township residents and families.”

Duggar hopes a long “neglected” area will use the hundreds of thousands of dollars wisely, and it doesn’t have to be in a “grandiose” way.

“There’s no reason not to keep this property mowed, maintained and looking good,” Duggar said. “We’re in the ‘Make Macomb Your Home’ blue water economy and things. … I’m going to keep after that aspect.”

Housing development would not have kept the neighborhood “a very attractive occupancy,” Duggar continued, saying he “couldn’t fathom” how that was even an original topic of discussion.

He praised Miller and her team for being “very responsive” to his questions, and thanked Sowerby for “shepherding” the process from the beginning.

“This land, you will see a lot of people park their car and take their dog out or run,” Duggar said. “You see a lot of passive use, and that’s how I want to see it maintained.

“And I think that’s the consensus of the neighborhood. We don’t want to see a draw of intensive or active use. We need the buffer and open spaces.”

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