mailmanOn April 25, Village of Lansing residents will elect a Mayor and two Trustees. In this contested election, three Lansing Trails residents, led by Lisa Bonniwell, are running as the 'Lansing Preservation Party' (LPP) against incumbent Mayor Don Hartill and Trustees Ronny Hardaway and Pat O'Rourke.

Bonniwell threatened to contest this election last November 7, when Lansing Trustees voted to downzone undeveloped acreage on Bomax Drive from Business and Technology to High-Density Residential. The rezoned acreage abuts as-yet undeveloped Phase 2 acreage of Lansing Trails, a neighborhood built by IJ Construction. IJ was owned and operated by Bonniwell's deceased father, Ivar Jonson, and is now operated by Bonniwell and her mother.

Many Lansing Trails residents objected that the rezoning would allow construction of an apartment complex in proximity to Lansing Trails, causing plummeting property values due to 'a problematic transient unmanaged population with all day traffic and noise nuisances.' The Trustees considered and researched these objections and found them to be speculative and based upon anecdotal evidence. Bonniwell asserted that the rezoning would somehow interfere with Ij's completion of Lansing Trails Phase 2. Her attorney argued that it was 'impermissible spot zoning' – an argument soundly rejected by the State Supreme Court's ruling in an Article 78 proceeding subsequently filed by Bonniwell and IJ against the Village. (Bonniwell and IJ have appealed.)

The LPP is now campaigning throughout the Village. The LPP's letter to Lansing Trails residents states that 'our first order of business will be to reverse the spot zoning change on Bomax Drive.' Its candidates' interviews in the Lansing Star make this agenda clear. However, the LPP's campaign literature says nothing at all about the zoning issue. The LPP can get away with this glaring omission because last year's rezoning battle, and Bonniwell's subsequent lawsuit, received no media coverage outside of the online Lansing Star. Few Village residents outside of Lansing Trails even seem to know what occurred.

Instead of citing the rezoning decision that is driving its campaign, the LPP's campaign literature notes that Village property taxes will have increased almost 30% in the last three years, and falsely claims that this increase was prompted by the incumbent Trustees' 'exorbitant' spending. It suggests that LPP candidates are running to 'conserve' resources and curb 'profligate' Village spending. Well played, LPP! After all, what voter doesn't hate 'tax and spend' politicians? But let's examine these claims in the context of history and facts. It's true that the Village property tax rate will have increased from $0.99 per thousand in 2015-16 to $1.30 in 2017-2018 – yielding a $93 increase for the owner of a $300,000 home. However, under incumbent Mayor Hartill's leadership, the property tax rate decreased from $1.57 per thousand in 2008-2009 to $.0.95 in 2013-14, as the Village built up large reserve funds to pay for anticipated capital projects. Over the past few years, the Village drew those funds down to make necessary capital acquisitions and infrastructure improvements (including road construction in Lansing Trails). Sound fiscal management dictates that taxes be increased to meet expenses and rebuild reserves; otherwise, the Village will have to continue drawing on reserves, or it will have to borrow. (THIS Board does NOT borrow.) But the LPP candidates, and many Village voters, don't seem to know any of this.

My point is this: if the LPP candidates had bothered to attend any of the Village Trustees' Board meetings since the November 7 rezoning vote, they would know this. These issues were discussed in public budget meetings. If these candidates had bothered to attend any Board meetings – or even to read meeting minutes – in the months and years before the rezoning decision was under consideration, they would know that our current Mayor and Trustees are not profligate spenders. They would know that:

  • The Village built a new Village Hall because the old one was overcrowded, and vibrated every time the Bolton Point water pumps were turned on;
  • An attorney attends Village Board meetings to ensure that the laws are followed, and to prevent lawsuits (which cost a bundle to defend) and judgments against the Village. Legal defense of Bonniwell’s unsuccessful Article 78 proceeding has cost the Village – and its taxpayers - over $10,000 so far; and
  • The Town may be talking about sharing services now, but, in years past, it tried to charge the Village for plowing. The Village acquired its own road equipment because it was cheaper to buy our own equipment.

Apparently, the LPP candidates don't know any of this. But now you do. Please vote accordingly on April 25.

Deborah Dawson, Village of Lansing Planning Board
Village of Lansing