The first zoning in Fabius Township became effective in May 1945 under the Township Rural Zoning Act (PA 184) of 1943. What seems to be the first zoning ordinance, a two-page document entitled “Fabius Township Building Code Ordinance No. 1,” became effective in August 1960. It provided for only two districts. District No. 1 was “Residential and Resort” and included all lands adjacent to Pleasant, Little Pleasant, Clear, Corey, Kaiser, and Long Lakes. District No. 2 “Agricultural and Industrial” included everything else. Apparently, there was no map. In the mid 1970’s, with the help of Vilican-Leman & Associates, community planning consultants from Southfield, Michigan, the zoning board prepared a more extensive ordinance and the first zoning map of the township. Its first draft was completed in January 1974. The fourth and final draft was adopted as Ordinance No. 15 in November 1977. Members of the Zoning Board who developed this ordinance were Rev. Ewald, Henry Gleason, Paul Jacobs, Virgil Jors, Kline, Sisson, and W.P. Smith. In the early 1990’s the Zoning Board prepared the Township’s first General Development Master Plan with the assistance of Rand Bowman of the Southcentral Michigan Planning Council. The Plan was submitted to the Township Board in July 1991, revised in December 1991, and adopted by the Township Board in May 1993. Members of the board who prepared the master plan were Thomas H. Doherty, Chairman; Larry Campbell, Merle Godber, Richard Maurer, Bruce Monroe, Clare C. Muehlberger, and Barbara Sweder-Juarez.
The Zoning Ordinance was extensively revised and reformatted in two phases in 1996 and 1997. The main purposes were to incorporate some of the provisions of the new 1993 Master Plan, to eliminate some undesirable industrial uses, to control intensive livestock operations, to improve procedures for submitting and approving site plans, and to make the zoning ordinance more user friendly. No changes were made in requirements, such as lot size, set backs, etc. To accomplish this, the Zoning Board held 19 meetings in 1996 and 25 meetings in 1997. Members of the board who revised the ordinance included William Hokanson, chairman; Robert L. Johnson, vice chairman; Richard Maurer, acting secretary; Ricky Starks, Barbara Sweder-Juarez, Lane Wells, and Thomas Wilson. All changes were reviewed by the St Joseph County Planning Commission, approved and enacted by the Township Board, and published as Ordinance No. 65, effective September 30, 1997. It has since been amended several times.
In January 2003, the Zoning Board interviewed three professional planning consulting firm to assist in the updating of the 1993 Master Plan and selected the firm of Wightman Petrie of Elkhart, Indiana, represented by Chuck Eckenstahler. The first meeting with the consultants was April 8, 2003 and the first recommendation was that the Zoning Board be converted to a Planning Commission. The Zoning Board also recommended this conversion and the Township Board approved it. The conversion to a Planning Commission became effective July 1, 2003. The renamed Planning Commission held its first meeting on July 15, 2003 and after adopting by laws, elected William Hokanson as chairman. Lane Wells as vice chairman, and Vernon “Butch” Lanphear as secretary.
During 2003, the Zoning Board/Planning Commission conducted 23 meetings and one working session, mostly related to updating the Master Plan. Four of the meetings were with focus groups who likely would be affected by the new plan and whose input was sought. These included (1) farmers and large landowners, (2) building contractors and real estate agents, (3) other businesses operating in the township, and (4) lake property owners, camps, and retreats.
The Planning Commission also developed a 35-question questionnaire that was mailed to 1, 800 property owners in May, with an unusually high response rate of 46%. A final draft of the new Master Land Use Plan consisting of 14 Sections, 84 pages, and 14 maps was reviewed and discussed in a joint meeting with the Township Board on December 16. The Township Board approved releasing the draft for coordination and review by surrounding townships, county planning commissions, and the city of Three Rivers.
In January 2004 the Planning Commission held two public visioning sessions and reached consensus on the following visioning statement: “Fabius Township will maintain its scenic rural character and environmental quality by preserving its farmland, open space, and wildlife habitat and protecting its lakes, streams, wetlands, and ground water. It will guide residential development in ways that preserve open space and restrict commercial and industrial development to the U.S. 131 and M-60 highway corridors.”
After further review the updated Master Land Use Plan was approved by the Planning Commission and sent to the Township Board for adoption in July, 2004. The Township Board held a special meeting in July to review the plan and at its regular July meeting expressed concerns about the north end of Clear Lake. Other concerns were also raised by citizens and the township attorney. The Township Board deferred action until these matters could be addressed. After a Public Hearing on the revised plan which discussed all proposed additions, corrections, and changes, the Planning Commission voted4-0 to recommend adoption of the Master Land Use Plan with the corrections and additions.
- Cutler, H.F. ed. The History of St. Joseph County Michigan Volume I. Chicago, 1911 Dunbar, Willis F. Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State. Revised Edition by George S. May, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980.
- Silliman, Sue I. St. Joseph in Homespun, Three Rivers, Michigan, 1931
- History of St. Joseph County Michigan. L.H. Everts publishers, Philadelphia, 1877
- History of Calhoun County Michigan. L.H. Everts publishers, Philadelphia, 1877
- History of Kalamazoo County Michigan. Everts and Abbot, publishers, Philadelphia, 1880
- Fabius Township General Development Master Plan. 1993
- Encyclopedia Britannica, Vols 13, 15, 16. Chicago, 1960.