03-22-2018 Hartford Township cemetery sexton embezzlement case back in court; Hartford Planning Comm

Hartford Planning Commission draws fire from two city commissioners for support of noncompliant marijuana shop location

By Jon Bisnett

The Monday March 19 workshop session of the Hartford City Council took yet another turn as Planning Commission chair Tim Kling reported a unanimous vote on the City’s Planning Commission making a recommendation to locate the proposed medical marijuana dispensary Med+Leaf at the former MacKinder Law Office building, next to City Hall at 11 West Main.

ACKNOWLEDGING 70 YEARS… Pictured (from the left) are Mark A. Manning, Paul Abrams and Joshua Woodwyk. Woodwyk is presenting a 70 Year Masonic Membership Award to Abrams.

Kling’s report drew immediate criticism from commissioners Frank Dockter and Terry Tibbs. Tibbs questioned how Kling could approve a non-compliant site. Kling defended his committee’s recommendation by noting that based on the information they had to work with the group was unanimous in their preference of the 11 West Main site as opposed to the alternative of the fully compliant 309 West Main site across from Ely Park. Kling went on to say the non-compliance that Tibbs referred to is still in question. The City Attorney gave opinion that 11 West Main is non-compliant, while the legal team for the Von Koenigs disavows that opinion.  Kling contends the distance from the church issue is for the lawyers or the commission to sort out, not the Planning Commission.

Med+Leaf’s principle investor Doug Von Koenig spoke briefly to remind the pundits that thus far the only individual that has called 11 West Main non-compliant by measure is the City’s part-time Attorney Harold Shuitmaker. He reminded of digital audio evidence he had previously presented in which City Manager Yemi Akinwale had vetted the distance at 570 feet as quoted in the Herald-Palladium following the January meeting. Akinwale, who had initially denied the statement until the recording transcript came out, now downplays his own statement saying, “I am not a voting member of the council.”

Commissioner Dockter further rebuffed the Planning Commission action for not following the opinion expressed by the City Attorney. “Planning is appointed, but we are elected and speak for the people of Hartford. The people don’t want this on Main Street,” said Dockter.

The next step will be a vote at the upcoming business session. Med+Leaf hopes to hear a motion to approve 11 West Main with a conditional variance of the measurement. Should the City Commission approve, the matter will make one more trip back to the Planning Commission for action on the variance, and that recommendation would then come back to the City Commission for final approval at the April Business Session.

Von Koenig added his side bar attempts to acquiesce to concerns expressed to him by Commissioner Tibbs, in that Med+Leaf would agree not use the front entrance of the building except as a fire exit and further would not place any signage on the building facing Main Street. Tibbs immediately responded that he withdraws that position and is no longer in support of those measures as a workable compromise. Both Tibbs and Dockter clearly stand on City Attorney Harold Shuitmaker’s opinion of non-compliant distance less than 500 feet from the church located at 9 West Shepard Street.


Dianna Rigozzi visited on behalf of Van Buren County Senior Services to report over 110 Hartford area seniors have participated in over 2,000 individual activities offered by the program.

A Service Recognition Day program will be held April 3 at noon at the Hartford United Methodist Church.

Public Comment

Peggy Bowen spoke as a resident of Shepard Street to attest to the validity and activity of the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 9 West Shepard.