09-05-2019 Church seeks special land use permit for community center on Main St. Watervliet;

Church seeks special land use permit for community center on Main St. Watervliet

By Annette Christie The Watervliet City Planning Commission was greeted by an enthusiastic church congregation seeking a special land use permit for a church and community center on Main Street in Watervliet at their Monday, August 26 meeting. The meeting began with the election of officers and the selection of Larry Hehl as the chairperson. Other members Robert Pelton and Mike Noack were present. Luke Strunk was absent.

FRESHWATER COMMUNITY CHURCH Pastor Justin VanFerrari… “We want to love people, strengthen families and bring hope to the next generation. It’s these three focus areas that have helped us determine what exactly we are looking for in a building”. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)


First on the agenda was the presentation by Pastor Justin VanFerrari with the Freshwater Community Church. He told the Commission that Freshwater Community Church started in Coloma in 2010. Over the past nine years they have been meeting in the Coloma Middle School building. They are seeking to move into the property at 115 N. Main St. and to convert it into a community center where their congregation meets on Sundays. “We want to love people, strengthen families and bring hope to the next generation. It’s these three focus areas that have helped us determine what exactly we are looking for in a building,” VanFerrari said. He told the Commission that while they don’t have a final architectural drawing yet, they will as the process moves forward. The structure they are interested in purchasing has both large and small spaces that will allow for multi-purpose usage. Currently they have about 75 adults and 25 kids in their congregation and the building will allow for the anticipated growth. VanFerrari said that they anticipate about $170,000 in renovations that will be done in phases. Up first would be a new roof, an update to the exterior of the building and then focusing on the smaller side before the larger side. Congregation member Brian Smith whose family re-located to be near their church prefaced that the church will help people to come to the area and stay in the area. He grew up in Kalamazoo and came to this area through employment. Since originally coming here, he and his wife have moved once but determined that for their family it was best to live where they go to church. “We came here because of the church which is community centered and family centered,” Smith said. The Planning Commission expressed some concerns about the condition of the building and parking. City Manager Tyler Dotson told the Commission that they are aware of the concerns and he is working with the church on those. “I have met with Justin and we are working together on what is in the City’s best interest and the Church’s best interest. We want to make sure we are following the process and I will work with Bob Lohr on that process,” Dotson said. Ordinance reviews requested In other business, the Planning Commission looked over some other ongoing projects that are in the works and two others that the City Commission would like them to review. The Planning Commission is working through the process to become a Redevelopment Ready Community. Dotson told the Commission that he worked with Mallory Brown previously and will continue moving forward on that. Brown is no longer on the Planning Commission. Dotson said he will bring the Chairperson up to speed on that. The City Commission has forwarded the Accessory Structure Ordinance and the Marijuana Establishment Ordinance to the Planning Commission. Dotson told the Commission that the City Commission attempted to revise the Accessory Structure Ordinance with regards to size and the look of structures but that did not pass. They will look to the Planning Commission for a recommendation. The City Commission did vote to opt out of allowing recreational marihuana facilities in the city; however, as the State moves forward with determining what that will look like, the city might want to review it further. The City Commission earlier also opted out of allowing medical marihuana facilities in the city. “Currently no marihuana establishments can exist in the City,” Dotson said. Dotson did tell the Planning Commission that when the ballot initiative was put before the people to allow recreational marijuana in the State of Michigan, 59% of Watervliet City voters said yes. All of the topics will be coming back to the Planning Commission in future meetings. The upcoming schedule has future Planning Commission meetings on the last Monday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

911 Patriot Day service to be held at Veterans Park in Watervliet

Watervliet VFW Post 1137 will be conducting a Patriot Day service on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 in Veterans Park at 11 a.m. Speaker for this year’s service will be the Rev. Dave Haase. Also participating will be Keanna Lewis singing our National Anthem, the North Elementary 5th Grade leading the Pledge of Allegiance and members of the Watervliet City Police and Watervliet Fire Department presenting the memorial wreaths. The closing ceremony will be conducted by the North Berrien Military Rites team. The public is invited to attend this service at Veterans Park located on Main St. near the railroad crossin

Parks of high importance to local governments

By Annette Christie

The communities of Coloma and Watervliet as well as Berrien County are all working on parks plans in one fashion or another. Coloma Township and the City of Watervliet are just starting the process while Watervliet Township has finished theirs. Berrien County is in the midst of updating their 5-year parks plan. Coloma City is in the process of major parks rehabil