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February 27, 2014

Lawyers in Kasson gravel case debate 'need'

SUTTONS BAY — The poor quality of Michigan’s roads could benefit someone: Edith Kyser, a woman who wants to mine gravel on her property in Leelanau County’s Kasson Township.

But Kyser’s land lies outside the township’s gravel district, and years of legal battles landed in the Michigan Supreme Court in 2010, when the court ruled in favor of the township’s ability to enforce its zoning rules.

That solid legal ground shifted in 2011, when state legislators passed a law that said a person could challenge a zoning ordinance as long as they met certain requirements, notably a new requirement that there is a need for a natural resource on the property, either an owner need or by the market served by the person.

Kyser brought the issue to court again, and the need for new gravel on the market became the subject of a 13th Circuit Court hearing this week.

“It does use the word need, so that does mean there’s some level of necessity or advantage to having it,” 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power said at the hearing. “It’s got to be more than merely that it can be extracted at a profit, because that would make the whole idea of need in the market redundant.”

Power will render a decision at a later date.

Sand and gravel mining has been a touchy subject for years in Kasson Township. In 1995, the township created a gravel district of more than 5 square miles to keep mining under control.

But in 2004, Kyser, whose land abuts the district, asked the township to rezone her property to allow gravel mining. Her request was denied, in part because the district originally was zoned to omit her property at the request of her late husband, said Kasson Township Supervisor Fred Lanham.

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