WELCOME COMMITTEE… Hannah Yerington Miss Watervliet 2019, Charlotte Weber Little Miss Firecracker 2018 and Bradyn Fuller Little Mr. Firecracker 2018 were at JW Morlock & Girls Fruitstand to welcome the 2019 Firecracker Contestants. The contestants were all able to enjoy a free ice cream from Mo’e Pies, located inside the fruitstand.
Watervliet City Commission approves opt out ordinance for recreational marijuana
By Annette Christie With three commissioners missing from a special meeting on Monday, May 20, the Watervliet City Commission approved opting out of having recreational marijuana businesses in their city limits. Following a presentation and advice from Attorney Jessica Fette at a previous meeting, the City took the action for now until the State of Michigan irons out the regulations on the subject that was approved state-wide by voters in November. Prior to the vote City Manager Tyler Dotson informed the Commission that with an ordinance vote, the charter requires a majority vote of the full Commission, not just a majority vote of those present. With commissioners Deah Muth, Michael Bumstead, and Duane Cobb absent that meant that all four in attendance must vote in favor in order for it to pass. Mayor Dave Brinker said that the Commission has had a lot of serious discussion at their last meeting on how to proceed on this topic. “After the discussion I believe that we are all on the same page,” Brinker said. With a motion on the table, all four in attendance (Brinker, Strunk, Whitney, and Helms) voted in favor of opting out of recreational marijuana businesses. While the Commission voted to opt out currently, their attorney is working on a draft ordinance that would allow recreational marijuana in the future, once the State of Michigan establishes the regulations for such. Commissioner Luke Strunk asked about the draft ordinance that would opt in to which Dotson replied that the city needs to dive into the types of establishments they might want to consider, before they could draft an ordinance that would opt in. Dotson said, “Before we can do that, we have a lot of research that needs to be done.”
Stunk wants to make sure that potential businesses don’t think it’s impossible to come to the City of Watervliet. “I don’t want anyone to think we are opting out or closing the door on this. I do have an idea on what I would like to see it become, as well as particular things that I don’t want to see. I am open to this and wouldn’t want anyone looking to come to the City of Watervliet to not do that because they think the door is closed,” Strunk said. Dotson suggested that he write up a press release explaining that the City of Watervliet will continue to look at the option of opting into recreational marijuana. Previously, the City Commission voted to opt out of medical marijuana businesses in the city as well. Wastewater Treatment Plant Berrien County Community Development Director Dan Fette presented a resolution to the City Commission which would approve a contract with Berrien County for an upcoming bond project to replace the clarifiers at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Fette said that the project is estimated to cost $720,000 in addition to that pre-existing debt the plant already has for about $550,000. Fette told the Commission that it has been determined that the Wastewater Treatment Plant Authority is not in a legal position to take on debt themselves. The municipal owners (Watervliet City, Watervliet Township, Coloma City, and Coloma Township) are the ones that are in that legal position. The plant asked the County to issue bonds to pay for the project, refund the pre-existing debt, and to roll all of the two together in one bond with a 10 year term, to be issued by Berrien County. While each municipality is approving a contract with Berrien County, it is the plant that will be making the payments for the bond. Strunk, who represents the City on the Authority, said the plant has the revenues to pay for the bond project. With the municipal contracts for the authority expiring in 2020, Strunk said they are looking to change the verbiage so that they will have the authority in the future to do this. Fette said it looks like the original contracts were written a certain way to give the municipalities more control of the sewer plant when it was being built. The other municipalities are expected to approve their contracts with the County at their upcoming meetings as well.
PARK DONATION… Menasha presented North Berrien Community Development a check for $2,000 from the Menasha Foundation for the Coloma DDA Randall Park Project. This contribution will be used for additional picnic tables under the pavilion. Pictured (from the left): Vickie Kirby, Amber Spoke, DDA Coordinator Marsha Hammond, Community Development Coordinator Chana Kniebes, Dee Derrow, and Kelly Harris.
Watervliet Township officials on way to approve medical marijuana ordinance
By Annette Christie At their regular meeting Monday, May 20, 2019, the Watervliet Township Board held the first reading of the medical marijuana ordinance and is expected to approve it at their June meeting. The ordinance provides regulations for the operations of medical marijuana facilities in the township. The ordinance allows for not more than six growers, not more than three processors, not more than four provisioning centers, and no limit on the number of safety compliance facilities and secure transporters. A grow facility and a processor may co-locate at the same location. All growers and processors must be located within the industrial zoning district. All provisioning centers, safety compliance facilities, and secure transporters must be within the commercial zoning district. All of the facilities, no matter what kind, must obtain a special land use permit. Provisioning centers must be located a minimum of 100 feet from residential zoning or an actual current residence and must be located a minimum of 500 feet from a school, playground, park, licensed day care center, or a place of worship. The ordinance provides for the process of applying to the township for such places of business. After several meetings and exhaustive research which included visits and on-site inspections of existing facilities in other municipalities, and public hearings, the Planning Commission sent the ordinance to the Township Board in the manner in which they felt best for the township and did not adjust earlier concerns about the distance from a residential zone or the number of provisioning centers. While Supervisor Dan Hutchins commented that he was not real excited about the distance issue to a residence, he said the permitting still has to go through a special land use permit process and alluded that the issue could be addressed then. Other business In other business, the board approved the appointment of Trustee Joe Stepich to the North Berrien Community Development Board as the township’s representative. The board approved the resolution which authorizes a contract on the Wastewater Treatment Plant bond issue. The contract will be between all four of the municipalities and Berrien County Public Works as the Wastewater Treatment Plant Authority cannot legally take out the debt in their name. The bond project is needed to replace the clarifiers and also to re-finance an earlier loan that they should not have legally taken out in the first place. The township will not be responsible for making the payments to the County they will simply serve as a pass-through. The Township Board did receive a letter from the Berrien County Planning Commission authorizing the Master Plan updates; however, they will not formally approve them until the June meeting. Zoning Administrator Bob Lohr said he will have the resolutions ready at that time. Police report on Lane Car Show Berrien County Sheriff Deputy Guy Puffer made his monthly report to the Township Board. He assured the board that the upcoming Lane Automotive Car Show is coming up Memorial Day and has all security and traffic concerns planned out. “It is like a well-oiled machine,” Puffer said. Due to requests from people getting off from work at 5:00 p.m. and missing the open header cruise in, their plans are to delay a little until 5:30 so people can get home and have a chance to see it. The cruise in will start on Friday Road, run through Coloma City and into Watervliet.
Berrien County Commissioner on county-wide bus service Berrien County Commissioner Dave Vollrath informed the board that the County is looking at a possible pilot program for a county-wide transportation system. He said they have opted to go for a two year trial rather than go full scale in order to work all the kinks out and see if it will work. While Berrien Bus has been operating for some time, county-wide service has not been stable. The communities of Niles, Buchanan, and Benton Harbor have their own bus systems. “The system is broken. Berrien Bus will run out of funds in two years if we don’t do anything,” Vollrath said. The County will be providing $100,000 annually for the two year pilot program.