Canton, Michigan

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About Canton


About Canton, Michigan
Wayne County


Established: 1834
Area: 36 Square Miles
Government: Charter Township
Population: 83,269
Taxpayers: 27,843
Registered Voters:49,725
Housing Units: 31,846
Valuation: $3.06 billion
Tax Rate:8.85 mills - police, fire, & general operating fund
(2000 census)
Median Age
: 33.4 years
Males: 37,800
Females: 38,566
0-17 years: 22,170
18 to 34 years: 18,373
35 to 64 years: 31,292
65 and older: 4,531

Diversity (2000 census)

White: 84%
Indian/Asian: 9%
Black: 5%
Hispanic: 2%
Other: 1%

Median Household Income
(1999 $)
: $72,495

Labor Force (2003): 31,850
(Unemployment rate:3.3% 2003)
2003 SEV: $3.73 billion
2003 Taxable Value: $3.06 billion

Canton Voters (Nov. 2002 Election)

Registered Voters: 49,278
Voter Turnout: 25,318
Absentee Ballots: 5,861
Percent Voting: 51.37%

The ruling body is called the Board of Trustees. It is made up of seven elected members, of which three are full-time administrators and four are part-time trustees. The full-time elected officials are the Supervisor, Treasurer, and Clerk. They also oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of the Township.

The administrative operations are made up of five departments: Administrative & Community Services, Finance & Budget, Leisure Services, Municipal Services and Public Safety.Canton Township is the sixth largest employer in the community.

Preview Canton
Learn more about Canton. View our one minute video on the exciting happenings in Canton Township.

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is the History of Canton?
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 brought settlers from New England. Settlers were met by heavy forests and many animals, including; bear, wolf, lynx, and fox. Early settlers engaged in self sustaining farming. Farm produced food and products provided the family with sustaining food and extra goods could be sold or bartered for goods, services or cash.

The typical Canton farm family owned six or eight milk cows, hogs for marketing, chickens for eggs and meat and a few sheep.

Sheldon Corners (Michigan and Sheldon roads) was established in 1825 adjacent to the Sauk Trail (Michigan Avenue). The center spawned a small village made up of a number of homes, post office, general store, blacksmith, church and school. Today Sheldon Corners is but a remnant of its past, falling to the widening of Michigan Avenue. A few of the historic structures remain/The Inn, the school and a few homes. Canton owns the completely restored Sheldon School (built 1870). Sheldon is listed as a Michigan State historic site.

Cherry Hill Village was established at approximately the same time as Sheldon Corners. It was home to Canton’s first church, the United Methodist Church. Cherry Hill was first known as “The Ridge”. Following the construction of the Cherry Hill House (Ridge and Cherry Hill) the area became known as Cherry Hill. Cherry Hill remained very much like it was since the early 1800’s until it was reestablished as the new Cherry Hill, including; hundreds of new homes, apartments, condos and commercial buildings. Cherry Hill is also home to the Village Theater at Cherry Hill Village. Both the church and school are Michigan State historic sites.

On March 7, 1834 Canton became a Michigan township. Canton, like Nankin and Peking townships were named after cities in China. Washington D.C. had decreed that names for new townships could not use an existing name. As a result of the nation’s fascination with China a number of townships adopted Chinese provinces and city names. Canton is the only remaining community with its original Chinese name.

Canton’s first government office (township hall) was constructed in 1874 at the corner of Canton Center and Cherry Hill. It cost $700 to construct and had a capacity of 400.

Canton’s population increased to 5,300 by 1961. Resident’s were interested in enhancing services. As a result residents voted to become one of Michigan’s first charter townships. This move permitted to the township to establish a police force, make traffic rules, and adopted ordinances. It also provided additional protection from annexation.

From 1925 to 1970 Canton became known as the "Sweet Corn Capitol of Michigan". A number of local farms provided corn to the area’s major grocery stores. Because of Canton’s central location it became a dairy farming center. Locally produced milk was processed at Canton creameries and then transported to larger near-by communities.

Most of Canton’s settlers came from New England with its strong emphasis on education. Along with their convictions, the Territorial Council of 1827 ruled that any township consisting of 50 or more families must employ one or more school masters of "good standing" to teach the "three R's".

There were nine schools built in Canton, usually at a crossroad. They were located so that they wee accessible to children walking to school. Teachers were hired for a specific number of weeks to teach and often boarded with local families. Each school was a "district" and had its own school board. Families in each area worked together to build and equip the school, paying a "tax" for each child that attended and donating a cord of firewood for the school stove.

The first schools were primitive log structures, one of the first being in Cherry Hill. Later, brick or frame schools replaced them. The schools were often used as community centers for the surrounding area for religious services and non-profit shows.

Today three of the original nine schools remain: Cherry Hill (Cherry Hill and Ridge, Sheldon School (Michigan and Sheldon), Hough School (Old Haggerty and Warren).

Canton is served by three school districts, the Plymouth Canton Community School District, the Van Buren School District, and the Wayne-Westland Community School District. The vast majority of the Canton community is served by the PCCSD. In addition to the highly regarded public education institutions, Canton is also home to a number of Private institutions; All Saints Catholic School, St. Michael Lutheran School, Agape Christian Center, Crescent Academy and Plymouth Christian Academy. Canton is also home to the Heritage Charter Academy.

Canton's population remained relatively stable until the late 1960’s when Holiday Park, a new subdivision, was developed south of Joy and East of the yet to be constructed I-275. The Plymouth Community School District purchased in a 130 acre centennial farm at the corner of Canton Center and Joy. The school district envisioned constructing a campus of high schools to serve the community. The first high school to be constructed was to replace Plymouth High School which was located in downtown Plymouth. The school site lacked basic sewer and water service. An agreement between Canton Township and developer’s sewer and water lines were extended to serve the school site. Salem was the first of the High Schools to be constructed. The sewer and water extensions then opened the Eastern portion of Canton to development. The first new subdivisions were located along the East side of Sheldon Road, from Joy to Ford road. These first new subdivisions included 900 lot Windsor Park and 1000 lot Carriage Hills subdivision to the South. These subdivisions were completed in the early 70's.

In the early 1970's some new and existing Canton residents shared the desire to maintain Canton a rural atmosphere. The group met for over year before gathering enough signatures to place a "farmland preservation" millage before the electorate. The 4 mill tax increase would have permitted the township to purchase from farmers their right to develop their land for new housing. The farmer would still own their land and have a right to farm, however they would be precluded from selling their land for development. Twice "farmland preservation" was placed before the voters and twice voters rejected it. The second time the issue was defeated by a much larger percentage. It was at that point that the community’s residents understood that Canton would continue to grow.

There two major factors which led to the rapid growth of Canton, one was cross-district busing and the other was the construction of I-275.

In the early 1970's a number of school segregation court cases were filed across the Untied States. Such a case was filed in Detroit’s federal court. Judge Damon Keith was assigned the case. Over many years the court considered the establishment of a plan to move students and teachers from their schools in the suburbs to Detroit schools, while busing students and assigning students to schools in the suburbs. Many plans were considered. Each plan had as its Western boundary the Eastern edge of the Plymouth Community Schools. Some families who did not support the adoption of the plan moved west of the cross-district plan boundary and into the Plymouth school district. Canton saw its population explode. It was not unusual for Canton to see the construction of 2,000 homes in a single year. No cross-district plan was ever implemented.

Another major influence on the development of Canton was the completion of I-275. Canton's central location permitted residents to use the new I-275 North/South freeway to travel anywhere in the Detroit metropolitan area within an hour. As a result, more and more people seeking new housing and close proximity to their work selected Canton as their home. During the late 1970’s new home construction hovered around 1500 new homes.

During Michigan's difficult recession of 1981-1983 Canton's home sales reached rock bottom. Very few homes were constructed during this time period. In some cases entire platted subdivisions were claimed by banks for outstanding unpaid loans.

New housing starts picked up in the latter part of 1983 and continued strong for the balance of the 80's.

The 1980's saw a disturbing trend beginning to materialize in Canton. Most new housing was constructed on 60' X 120' lots and was fairly homogenous. Individuals wishing to buy a new home with a larger lot and more living space were forced to move from the community. They typically moved to one of the new subdivisions being constructed in Plymouth Township which offered larger lots and larger homes. Additionally, Canton was seen as two communities….those living North of Ford road living in more desirable areas than those South of Ford road.

The election of 1988 resulted in a new Board of Trustees and the adoption of a number of "community building" goals. Many of the goals dealt with taking actions which would enhance the image of the community. One of the first thrusts was to develop a family friendly community. Greater emphasis was placed on children and family activities and events. Special attention was paid to providing a respected and responsive Public Safety Department. Efforts were also made to work cooperatively with developers to achieve the best possible development plans.

In the late 80's Wayne County was experiencing a shortage in landfill capacity. Canton, along with a number of communities, possessed sites (private interests) for landfills. It was very difficult to site new landfills. Residents and elected officials made landfill development very difficult. Capacity issues became so acquit that The County Executive threatened to use his police power’s to site new landfills. Canton’s officials recognized that the site in Canton was likely to be identified as a new landfill. As a result, Canton became the first community in Michigan to utilize a host community agreement to facilitate the construction of a landfill. In exchange for not fighting the development the community would receive annual financial benefits.

The Canton Board of Trustees approved the construction of Sauk Trails, South of Michigan Av. And the vertical expansion of the land fill East of I-275 (south of Van Born). The Board also limited the expenditure of landfill royalties to capital improvement projects only (parkland purchase, park improvements, facilities, roads and recycling).

Coincidental with the construction of the landfill there was the exploration of actions that could be taken to enhance Canton’s housing stock. Initial discussions were held with developers to encourage them to build a golf course community (image enhancement and enhanced housing stock). The private sector did not respond to Canton's request.

Canton officials were successful in encouraging the development of Glengarry (East of Canton Center and South of Cherry Hill). The development plan included a full boulevard throughout the subdivision and larger lots and homes. Home buyers positively responded to this new development. This success set the stage for Pheasant Run. Three developers and Canton developed a planned golf course community. The plan featured an 18 hole upscale golf course surrounded by larger, more expensive housing.

Included in the Pheasant Run development was the first project to be constructed utilizing landfill royalties was the Summit on the Park.

In just a few short years the image and housing stock of Canton changed dramatically. Families wishing to move up no longer had to move out. By 1993 Canton offered a full range of housing options.

The success of Pheasant Run led to the development of Central Park, Cherry Hill Village, The Hamlet and a number of other projects.

Canton's commercial development beginning in the late 70's through 2000 consisted of community shopping and neighborhood retail centers. Community shopping by its very nature focuses on providing retail to support the local community. Many products and services were not available within Canton and necessitated trips to malls and shops located outside of Canton. In 2005 IKEA, the world’s largest furniture/accessory store announced that would locate its only Michigan store in Canton. Immediately the commercial world noted this change in the landscape and took another look or a first look at Canton as a regional retail center. Since the IKEA announcement new retailers have located or planned to locate on Ford road.
 What is a Township?
Michigan is one of 20 states that currently have some form of township government. There are more than 16,600 towns and townships in the United States. More than 60 million people live in US towns and townships. This represents more than 20 percent of the United States population. Townships were actually in place before most of the Midwestern states had achieved statehood. The Northwest Ordinance enacted in 1787 by Congress established townships as the initial government of territories which later became states. Townships are generally found in three regions of the United States: New England, Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest. There are regional distinctions between the responsibilities and operation of townships.

Michigan townships were established utilizing a grid pattern. A true township is six miles by six miles (total of 36 square miles). Over time some townships have lost area as villages and cities were established. Some townships are less than 36 square miles because of their proximity to one of Michigan’s Great Lakes. The cities of Livonia and Taylor were at one time a "true township" (36 square miles). Canton is a true township.

Township governmental powers in Michigan have evolved to the point where it is difficult to differentiate townships, cities and villages.

Significant differences do exist between the three types of municipalities. These differences are important to the people charged with administering township affairs and deciding township policies. Townships and Counties are statutory units of government, having only those powers expressly provided or fairly implied by state law. Cities and most villages on the other had are vested with home rule powers and can do almost anything not prohibited by law.

There are two types of townships in Michigan – general law and charter townships. In 1947 the Michigan Legislature created charter townships as a special township classification. Charter townships are provided greater protection against annexation by a city. In addition to Canton there are 127 Michigan charter townships.

There are 1,242 Michigan townships, which very in considerably in geographical size, population, location and organizations structure and services provided. Michigan townships range in size from 10 residents to 95,648.

Large townships are governed by a township board consisting of seven members – a supervisor, clerk and treasurer and four trustees. The township board may also hire a manager, assessor, police and fire chiefs, and other necessary personnel to properly and efficiently operate the township.

State law permits townships to perform mandated and permissive functions. Mandated functions are activities that townships are required to perform. These include assessment administration, elections administration and tax collection. State law details the methods to be utilized in the delivery of these services.

In addition to broad mandates, there are other, more narrowly defined state requirements. These mandates address the adoption of budgets, accounting, investments and deposits and other financial matters.

The Township Zoning Act gives townships broad powers to enact and enforce ordinances. Zoning ordinances give the township the authority to regulate land use, while many other specific ordinances control activities that infringe on citizen rights.

The Michigan constitution and state statutes limit the amount of property tax millage that townships can levy for general township operations. General Law townships (the vast majority of small Michigan townships) are allocated at least 1 mill. Charter townships created by referendum (vote of the people) may levy up to 5 mills. In either case, the 5 mill limit may be increased up to 10 mills with a vote of the electors.

Townships may also utilize other sources of revenue to support services. User fees, permits, fines and special assessments on real property are utilized most often.
 What are the two categories in which Michigan government units fall into?
As of April 2002 there were more than 2,700 government units in Michigan, and they fall into two categories.
  • General-purpose units are counties, cities, villages, and townships. Each has an elected board as their legislative body.
  • Special-purpose units are K-12 school districts, intermediate school districts, regional educational service agencies, community colleges and authorities; all have a governing body that may be elected or appointed.
General-purpose units of government operate with restricted power, that is, the unit’s authority is granted by the state, either through the constitution or statute. Whether a unit is empowered to engage in an activity depends on whether the state has expressly granted it authority to do so. In Michigan, counties, townships and villages begin as general-law units, but if they meet certain statutory requirements, they may change to charter (home-rule) units, by law, all cities are charter units. (Wayne County is the only home rule county in Michigan).
  • General-law units may organize themselves and exercise authority only in the way that the state constitution and statues have specifically set forth for this type of government.
  • A Charter (home-rule) unit has more control over its organization and broader authority than does a general-law unit. The unit’s charter sets forth the taxing and borrowing limits (subject to state law), number of departments, and types of services to be delivered to residents.
Charter townships (home-rule)
State law gives the home-rule (charter) option to townships of 2,000 or more residents. One advantage of home rule for townships is some protection against being annexed by adjacent cities.
  • Townships may achieve charter status via (1) a resolution adopted by the township board (example: Plymouth Township)

    Millage is restricted to the amount levied on the date the resolution was adopted.
  • Or (2) a vote of township residents (Canton is an example). The latter course gives a township greater taxing authority than the former.

    Charter townships are given five mills upon voter approval, plus the authority to go to the voters for additional mills.
Of Michigan’s 1,242 townships, 130 have opted for charter status.

Intergovernmental Cooperation and Consolidations

The Michigan Legislature has enacted several statutes permitting intergovernmental cooperation. Any local government is authorized to engage in a given activity or provide a given service may do so collaboratively.
 How does a Township differ from a City?
As was noted above there are two basis types of townships, general law and charter. General Law townships are limited to a maximum of 1 mill of general operating revenue. Charter townships can levy up to 5 mills. General Law townships become Charter townships for two reasons; residents desire to have increased services and to gain additional protections from annexation. General Law townships by virtue of their limited millage provide basic services, usually part paid fire service and a contract for police protection from a county. As Townships grow they experience the need for more service. Fire departments become full time and they emergency medical assistance and transport. There is also a need for a full time police department. Waste is collected from residents and recreation programs and facilities are constructed.

When 5 mills are insufficient to meet the needs of a growing community it often leads to the creation of a city. Cities, unlike townships, operate on the basis of a city charter. A charter written and approved by the residents. The charter spells out maximum millage rates, the structure of government, and the rules to modify the charter. A charter township receives it charter from the State of Michigan. All townships receive the same charter.

Sources of revenue

Property Taxes

Property tax is a significant source of revenue for local governments. In most cases it represents the largest source of revenue. Prior to proposal A school districts derived most of their revenue from local property taxes. Post proposal A schools now receive the bulk of their revenue from the state of Michigan as a foundation grant. Other local governments continue to look to the property tax as a major revenue source.

State Revenue Sharing

Revenue sharing is made up of two parts, constitutional and statutory. The constitutional portion is based exclusively on a community’s population. Statutory revenue sharing is based upon a formula developed by the legislature. Prior to 1996 local governments received a portion of revenue from four taxes levied by the state; sales tax, income tax, intangible tax, and the single business tax. These funds were distributed to communities based upon their population (decade census) and by relative tax effort. Relative tax effort rewarded those communities with high millage rates with more state shared revenues.

In 1996 there were a number of changes made to revenue sharing. Income, intangible and the single business taxes revenues were removed from state revenue sharing (these were off set by the new sales tax revenue. Relative tax effort was phased out as one of the components of the distribution formula. Post 1996 the formula has been modified to include a hold harmless revenue level for cities, as well as, the per capita value of the unit’s total taxable property, support for low wealth communities, and a weighted population component.

Statutory and constitutional revenue sharing’s population component is based upon each decade’s census. Following the certification of the census communities gaining residents should see an increase in revenue sharing equal to its growth rate. Those losing population would like wise see a reduction in funds. Canton’s population increased from 57,000 in 1990 to 76,000 in 2000. Rather than adjusting Canton’s revenue sharing commensurate with its population increase the state capped Canton’s increase to 8%. As a result, Canton has been denied $2 million/per year of revenue sharing for the years 2001-2010.

As Canton’s population continues to increase its per capita revenue sharing declines ($ /person). It will do so throughout the decade. Meanwhile as other communities lose population their per person revenue sharing increases.

Other major sources of revenue

As a growing community Canton realizes revenue from site plan and engineering review fees, building permits and a variety of other building related activities.

The 35th District court distributes excess revenue to each of the five communities it serves. There has been a steady decline in excess revenue over the last ten years.

Revenue is also derived from cable companies who utilize the community’s rights of way. Canton also receives royalties from the operator of the landfill located south of Michigan Avenue and west of Haggerty. It is expected that the landfill will continue to operate for 8-10 years.

Additional revenues are generated by programs and service fees. Most of these revenues are generated by the Leisure Services Department.

Virtual Tour
Take a virtual tour of the community recreation center, The Summit on the Park, and other locations around Canton.

Historic Information
For historic information on Canton, visit the Canton Historical Society web site.

For information on the preservation of historic sites in Canton, please visit Canton Historic District Commission on the web, or call 734/394-5192.

The Canton Community is located in the State of Michigan, USA, on the far western edge of Wayne county. Canton is approximately 20 miles east of Ann Arbor, 35 miles west of Detroit and 50 miles north of Toledo, Ohio. The township of Canton was established in 1834 and is one of the fastest growing communities in the state today.

1150 Canton Center Road South small green bullet Canton, MI 48188-1699 small green bullet 734/394-5100 Image of Canton Township Logo

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