2018-08-16 / Views

Laws need not apply to their enforcers

If property owners are required to obey township zoning ordinances — and they are — shouldn’t township zoning administrators be held to the same standard?

We ask the question in reference to the latest controversy involving multi-township zoning administrator Tim Cypher, who so far has chosen not to address the concerns of a resident whose political sign was taken down by Mr. Cypher without due process.

We know of no authorization held by a township zoning official to enter private property without permission to remove a zoning violation. Township authority is based on due process, which includes proper notification and an appeal opportunity.

Worse, Mr. Cypher made no effort to contact the landowner, who had filed a criminal complaint with the county Sheriff’s office.

If only the story ended there.

The previous owners of the property, a Lake Leelanau couple, allege that Mr. Cypher improperly used his office in an attempt to coerce them into deeding over an easement needed for an adjacent lot to have road access to M-204, which they did not do. Mr. Cypher previously had an ownership interest in the property needing access, and was involved in splitting the property into lots. The couple’s son took the conflict of interest case to the Leland Township Board, which did nothing.

In his latest apparent conflict, Mr. Cypher turned his visit as an official for Leland Township into a business call with clout. He initiated a conversation aimed toward rectifying the property dispute that involved him.

Actually, Mr. Cypher carries another conflict to his zoning enforcement appointments as he runs all township work through his private company, All Permits. The firm specializes in weaving landowners through the permitting process. So when he hands a township zoning administrator card to a resident, the phone number and email goes directly to his business.

Our disappointment in learning about the latest incident was only compounded by the reaction of township supervisor Susan Och, whom we called to inquire about procedure for rectifying zoning violations. As township policy calls for officials to avoid even the hint of a conflict of interest, we asked about that, too.

She wholeheartedly backed Mr. Cypher who, in her mind, had done nothing wrong.

As readers know, we’ve had our disagreements with Mr. Cypher over other issues. So have residents of the county. We heard some step forward at a recent hearing to say they felt intimidated by Mr. Cypher. They were concerned that crossing paths with him would hurt their chances of getting zoning permits in the future.

We’ve been contacted by other county residents who shared their stories about Mr. Cypher with us, but were afraid to go public.

All this seems straight forward to us. Public officials, especially those involved in enforcement, must follow proper procedure and avoid conflicts.

Mr. Cypher, by our estimation, is the highest paid public official in local government in the county, school superintendents excluded. We have no idea how much he makes with his closely related private business.

But we do know residents deserve better from their zoning administrator.

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