01-09-2020 Watervliet City delays church approval again; Coloma Royalty crowned; Drs. Ed and Sue Lie

2020 MISS COLOMA AND HER COURT… (From the left): Miss Congeniality Bailey Siglow; 2nd Runner-Up Rachael Arnold; Miss Coloma Lilly Trapp; and 1st Runner-Up Isabelle Stevens. (TCR photos by Annette Christie)

2020 MR. COLOMA AND HIS COURT… (From the left): Mr. Nice Guy Caleb Winfield; 2nd Runner-Up Nicholas Santarlas; Mr. Coloma Ian Ishmael; and 1st Runner-Up Ethan Price.

Watervliet City delays church approval again

By Annette Christie

Driving down Main Street in the City of Watervliet, visitors can stop by a restaurant or two, visit a hardware store, library, insurance agent, liquor store, brewery, pharmacy, newspaper, an attorney, or a K-9 learning center. Main Street also allows a primo window frontage location for winter storage of boats, motorcycles, etc. Vacant buildings also populate Main Street.

One organization that would like to prevent another vacant building, would invest and make improvements to an aged structure, and provide a place for people to go for resources when they need it most, could obtain a special land use permit and have a presence on Main Street; however, they have hit another delay after the Watervliet City Commission Meeting held January 7, 2020.

Freshwater Church first applied to the City of Watervliet for a special land use permit in April of 2019. Their first opportunity to be heard was in August. Several Planning Commission meetings and a Zoning Board of Appeals (City Commission) meeting later, the City Commission decided at their Tuesday night meeting that they now want to seek a legal opinion from their attorney.

While the Planning Commission had recommended to the City Commission that they deny the special land use permit, the City Commission ultimately could have approved it and could have determined any of the conditions for the permit.

Prior to the decision, Pastor Justin VanFerrari of Freshwater Church told the City Commission that he was excited about the downtown development vision in which the city and the church share some of the same goals. He told them he looked forward to the Community Center providing activities and events for the people of the community. VanFerrari said that they would like to partner with the community in creating additional amenities that will add another realm for people to come to Watervliet.

VanFerrari addressed two of the issues that have been brought up in their conversations with the Planning Commission – one being parking and the other being the special land use permit being tied to the property forever. He noted that on average they have about 30 cars on a Sunday morning. Located right behind the proposed church/ community center at 115 N. Main St. is a public parking lot that can hold 36-37 cars. In his research, he found that this lot is not being utilized by other businesses for their parking needs.

With regard to the longevity of the special land use permit, VanFerrari noted that the church has been in existence for 10 years. Research he shared shows that the percentage of churches that make it after that many years of existence is very high. Zoning/ Ordinance Enforcement Officer Bob Lohr noted that special land use permits are approved to the property and the specific use that was approved by the permit. He stated that if they change the purpose, it does not apply.<