The Tobin Affair…an editorial note, Suz Mclaughlin

Not too long ago someone said to me “Whatever happened in the Tobin case?” When I responded, “We lost…” She said “It seemed to die without a whimper”. That got me to remembering all the effort, time and money the Friends of Betsie Bay invested in assisting the City of Frankfort to uphold their Master Plan for the Lake Street area when downstate developer, Marshall Tobin, first proposed the development of a large multi-family condo in this single family residential area and I came to one conclusion…We did not lose!

FOR TWELVE YEARS, in two major lawsuits of the different development proposals, the Friends of Betsie Bay steadfastly maintained the Frankfort Master Plan should be upheld to protect the neighborhood, the land use, and the Bay. For twelve years we managed to do just that with the guidance of our expert environmental lawyer, Jim Olson. That’s huge! We took this all the way to the Michigan Court of Appeals and they determined the Friends didn’t have a legal ‘investment’ to stand on.

These kinds of legal battles are never pretty and not many seek to become engaged in such a lengthy commitment. The Friends stood up to the plate and followed through, despite the odds. This was never about defeating Mr. Tobin; this was about the legal precedent this case would set for all of Frankfort in our planning and zoning efforts. Effectively, there is now a ‘spot zone’ in this area. Spot Zones are defined “…as a provision in a general plan which benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone for use just for that parcel and different from the surrounding properties in the area…” ( We hope to continue our efforts to support the City to legally address this issue to protect the neighborhood and all of the City’s planning and zoning.

Many feel Mr. Tobin is unlikely to pursue his proposed development but at this point, that’s his legal right to do so. We were quite effective in reaching out to Mr. Tobin for last year’s first phragmites treatment and we plan to continue our relationship in a positive manner. That’s not dying with a whimper!

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