02-28-2019 City of Coloma bans commercial marijuana operations; Watervliet school board selects six

City of Coloma bans commercial marijuana operations

By Nancy Albright

The City of Coloma passed an ordinance on February 25 prohibiting commercial marijuana businesses from setting up shop within city limits.

Violators will be charged with a municipal infraction and face fines ranging from $100 to $500 per violation. Fines will accrue each day the violation continues, and offenders will be fined separately for each offense.

Mayor Jim Polashak stressed that the ordinance applies to commercial operations and prohibits personal growers from getting a license to grow marijuana on their properties. Medical marijuana is a separate issue. “The state doesn’t know how they’re going to regulate the marijuana laws yet, it could take up to a year,” said Commissioner Jason Hicks. “This ordinance exists to protect Coloma from the unknown.”

Any resident wishing to see the Marijuana Ordinance may do so at City Hall during regular business hours. The next Ordinance Meeting will be at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, March 11, 2019 at City Hall, with a Public Hearing to follow at 7:30 p.m.

Sewer plant repairs

Berrien County Community Development Director Dan Fette explained to the City Commission at their meeting on Monday, Feb. 25 that in order to proceed with needed improvements to the Paw Paw Lake Wastewater Plant, the plant needs to pay off former debt. “At this point the plant doesn’t have the capacity to borrow, so we’re asking the municipalities to borrow,” explained Fette. He is currently seeking approval as required by the county from the City of Coloma, Coloma Township, the City of Watervliet and Watervliet Township to help finance the repairs.

Each municipality will pay one quarter of the repair costs, to be reimbursed going forward. The council approved the resolution, and Fette said that he anticipates the remaining three municipalities will approve their resolutions as well. “There will be more than enough revenue to pay off the old debt and finance the repairs,” he said. If all the municipalities adopt the resolution, the contract will be ready for approval at the beginning of April.

Open burn law

Coloma resident Sieg Freitag asked the council if they have decided to issue an open burn permit to Jerry Street to burn a large pile of debris on a parcel of land between East Logan Street and the railroad tracks, as requested at the Feb. 11 council meeting. “We have spoken with Coloma Fire Chief Mike Mattix and he has given us permission,” explained Freitag.

Commissioner Hicks said that even though Street plans to move the debris a safe distance away from nearby buildings and would like to burn while it is still wet to minimize smoke, he is concerned that those buildings may still be subject to damage. “While I don’t doubt your ability to control the fire, there is a reason we have a no open burn law within city limits, and this is a perfect example,” Hicks told Freitag. “If we allow one person to burn then we have to allow everyone.”

Mayor Polashak told Freitag that Fire Chief Mattix and the city’s attorney will attend the next City Council meeting to address the issue.

The next Fire Board meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 at Fire Station #1.

Local issues

Coloma resident Bill Smith asked the council if they plan to do something about the pole barn in Lions Park. “It is an eyesore and we should make an effort to clean it up,” Smith commented.

Mayor Polashak said that it depends on the state. “We want to address the barn, but it’s up to the state. We’ve been asking them for permission for a year.” Polashak told Smith they will continue to pursue the issue with the state.

Smith also reminded the council that inspections should continue to be made on rental units in town to make sure they are up to code. Smith said, “For example, we may be liable for fire if we don’t complete the inspections on smoke detectors.”

With respect to Smith’s question regarding a local survey regarding the proposal for city-wide bus service, Commissioner Julie Smith said that the Planning Commission has discussed the proposal and, although a formal survey has not been conducted, it appears that the south end of the city is interested in bus service.