09-19-2019 Watervliet Township Medical Marijuana Special Land Use Permits in the works; City of Hart

North Berrien Photography Contest winners announced

Each year, the North Berrien Photography Contest invites Michigan photographers to submit images taken in the Bainbridge, Coloma, Hagar, and Watervliet areas of Berrien County. For the 2019 contest, a total of 28 beautiful prints were submitted for consideration. From these entries, two winners and two honorable mentions have been selected. These four photographs, along with 14 others selected by the Twin City Camera Club judges, will be displayed in the main gallery of the North Berrien Historical Museum, September 13–October 18.

“Bainbridge Township Hall” by Lora Heinz of Benton Harbor

“Peach Festival Ready” by Barry Nelson of Hartford

The winning photographs of the 2019 Photo Contest are: “Peach Festival Ready” by Barry Nelson of Hartford in the senior division and “Bainbridge Township Hall” by Lora Heinz of Benton Harbor in the adult division. These two photographs were determined by the judges of the contest to best represent and celebrate features of North Berrien’s distinctive character. Nelson’s photograph is a resplendent portrayal of the first commercially successful fruit to be grown in Michigan. “The [Glad] Peach Festival is celebrated in Coloma each year. This festival attracts many people into the downtown area as well as nearby communities. The mixture of colorful fruit and foliage make a beautiful photograph. Agriculture is one of the largest employers in North Berrien County,” Nelson said of his winning entry. The photo was taken on Friday Road in the early afternoon using a Canon 7d mark II camera with a Canon 100×400 lens. Heinz’s photograph depicts a preserved piece of North Berrien history: “[Bainbridge Township Hall] caught my eye and I thought it was a country style building. North Berrien County has maintained the country feel and this building still has that. No neighborhood subdivisions near it or other businesses as many township halls have,” Heinz explained of her winning photograph. The shot was taken on the corner of N. Bainbridge Center Road in mid-August during the late afternoon using a Nikon D3200. Honorable mentions were awarded to Charlene Durfee of Coloma and Donnalee Forraht of Berrien Springs.

The winning photographers were awarded a local restaurant gift certificate and two movie passes to the Loma Theatre courtesy of the Coloma-Watervliet Area Chamber of Commerce, a large geranium from Grapevine Nursery, a $25 gift card courtesy of the Twin City Camera Club, and a free one-year membership to the North Berrien Historical Society.

Watervliet Township Medical Marijuana Special Land Use Permits in the works

By: Annette Christie

The Watervliet Township Board was informed of some upcoming special land use permit applications that may be coming their way in the next month or so.

Zoning Administrator Bob Lohr told the board at their Monday, September 16 meeting that the township has received five applications, each of them for a Medical Marijuana provisioning centers. Lohr said there are four available spots. Two of the applicants have received conditional approval this month, thus resulting in the public hearings being scheduled for October 1st.

The first public hearing is at 2:05 p.m. on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 for the request at 3801 M-140, at the southeast corner of M-140 and Verlynda Dr. It is currently the site of Mill Creek Charlies. The special land use permit is being requested by Brian Toma on behalf of BRT Capital LLC for the location and operation of a Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center.

The second public hearing is at 2:35 p.m. for the special land use permit request for the 8273 and 8277 Arnt Blvd. The property is located at the east end of Arnt Blvd. in the strip mall on the north of the road across the street from the hotel. The permit is being requested by Joe Arnt, who owns the strip mall, for the location and operation of a Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center.

Lohr said that the Planning Commission will be reviewing site plans, checking for compliance and correctness. They will make a recommendation to the Township Board and then the Township Board will vote on it. In response to an inquiry by Clerk Patt Bambrick, Lohr said that once the Township Board approves it, it goes into effect.

If the other three applicants are able to get all of the paperwork in order prior to the October 1st Planning Commission meeting, they would be able to set the public hearings for the November meeting.

The Watervliet Township Board approved an ordinance this spring that would allow for certain Medical Marijuana businesses in the township.

Also at the Monday night meeting, the Auditor said that the township’s funds were in excellent condition. The auditor did note in the report that it may be time to move the cemetery fund into the general fund as its own line. Currently it is considered a special fund, however, the auditor said that special funds should be able to support themselves without money from the general fund, which the cemetery funds cannot. The perpetual care fund will stay as its own special fund. The auditor confirmed that there is a new ruling on how to invest those funds, the township can invest up to 60% in mutual funds, letting a little bit more happen there to try and earn more on that money.

County Commissioner Dave Vollrath told the township board and visitors that they will be noticing some road work on Napier Ave. for the section from the Berrien Hills Golf Course to Colfax Ave. He said the road will go down to three lanes with room for a walking/bicycle lane. Vollrath said that the studies show that the change is supposed to cut down on accidents on that stretch. Studies that have been done here and throughout the state on roads like that and have shown that it cuts down on accidents. Vollrath added that there is some discussions about increasing the Berrien County Parks millage, however, nothing has been decided yet. Vollrath said that the County Commission will be holding budget hearings this Friday and next Monday and it is likely that it will be discussed during that time.

Trustee Joe Stepich told the board that after last month’s meeting in which the board approved funds for some dry hydrant installations on Paw Paw Lake, he and Treasurer Tom Scheid located another location at a piece of property that is a beach and is owned by the township, that would be a shorter run from the road to the lake, and doesn’t involve a sea wall. Stepich said he has asked Trident Dock and Dredge to provide an estimate on that. Stepich said, “My guess is that it will be significantly less than the other one.” If the estimate comes back to be less, the board is likely to make the change officially in the record and un-do the motion already in the minutes.

Bambrick said that the grant application submitted for Airport has been scored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the township scored 270 out of 590. Bambrick said that her contact at the DNR said that the score was about average for what everyone put in for. She said there are some things in that grant that the township simply won’t qualify for. Bambrick said she will work with LaGrow Consulting to try and tweak the application by the October 1 to see if they can score higher.

Scheid told the board that I & M is requesting from the state that all street should be changed LED. The project to do so will be funded by I & M and will cost the township nothing. They will either do it through attrition or they can change them all at once. The township board approved a motion asking I & M to change them all at once, all at the same time.

In other business, Stepich talked to Supervisor Dan Hutchins (who was not present for the meeting), and announced that Hutchins would like to step down from the Watervliet Joint Fire Board as the township representative. The board accepted his resignation and appointed Bambrick to fill the term.

Scheid announced that township-wide leaf pick up will be happening again this year and while they haven’t set the official dates, it is usually held during the month of November. Scheid said last year they started early and if the need is there, that is a possibility as well this year. The dates should be determined at the next meeting, which will be held on October 21, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.

City of Hartford Votes To

Expand Marijuana Licenses

by Jon Bisnett

At the Monday September 16th meeting of the Hartford City Commission voted unanimously to expand the ordinance governing medical marijuana related businesses in the city.

The updated ordinance parameters will allow for up to 5 Class A (500 plants,) Grower Licenses, 3 Class B (1,000 plants,) and 5 Class C (1,500 plants) in addition to 5 Processors and 4 Provisioning Centers with 2 Secure Transport and 2 Safety Compliance Facilities.

Commissioner Terry Tibbs was absent on vacation but sent an email to City Clerk RoxAnne Isbrecht stating his personal objection to any expansion of the ordinance. Tibbs opinion fell on deaf ears as the council moved quickly with minimal discussion to approve the measure paving the way for a combined grow and dispensary complex to be constructed on Prospect Street adjacent to the Hartford Speedway, a Provisioning Center and additional business suites in the redevelopment of the former Hokzema Ford dealership building on West Main and a $7 million dollar Grow Operation to be constructed on 9 acres off Marion Street to be purchased from the city. Commissioner Frank Dockter, who initially had opposed any such businesses, commented “It’s all about revenue for the city… it breaks my heart to see all the empty storefronts… we feel it’s in the best interest of city to use this opportunity bring in new business and jobs that we have been unable to do in the last decade. It will provide a catalyst for restaurants and gas stations as these businesses attract those from nearby communities with a lack of vision who have chosen to opt out.” Commissioner Ron Burleson added “It is time to face the fact that Marijuana is legal in the State of Michigan following the vote on Proposal One. The people made their choice known”

Med+Leaf, the city’s first dispensary applicant, is on schedule to open October 1st at their location adjacent to Family Dollar on West Main.


Van Buren County Commissioner Mike Chappell began by reporting that controversial murals at the van Buren Courthouse will remain as they are by vote of the County Commissioners.

The commissioners approved a 3-year contract with Market van Buren to work with local government entities to provide local economic development services and access to the Revolving Loan Fund.

The 2020 Census is coming and jobs are available for both census taker and management positions.


Theoretical incumbent Dennis Goss chose not to file a petition for office, leaving an open seat for Commissioner in the upcoming November election. Goss went into office as a write-in candidate. His replacement will be subject to the same process with a filing deadline of October 25th.

State Representative Beth Griffin will host a Coffee Hour at City Hall on September 19th at 10:30 am.

Police Report

Chief Tressa Beltran presented a written report detailing activity of 744 duty hours with 25 foot-patrol hours which included 121 complaints for the month of August, resulting in 11 arrests including 7 felonies.

Beltran recognized the efforts of Jannel Babcock, a 2019 Hartford High School graduate, who raised money as a community service project to provide new equipment for the department’s crossing guards.

Ordinance Officer Report

A written report from Ordinance Officer Jim Coleman noted 9 property inspections for the month of August. Blight postings for the month totaled 40 violations resulting in 40 follow-ups. 19 grass height violations and subsequent follow-ups also took place.

Fire Report

Chief Rob Harting was on hand to report the department responded to 55 calls in the month of August, including 43 Rescue/Medical Calls and 2 vehicle fires.

Calls are up well over 400, year to date and predicted to eclipse 2018 totals.

The HFD will host its first Lighted Truck Parade 8:00 pm October 5th in celebration of Fire Prevention Week along with programs to be presented at the elementary school, followed by a pancake breakfast at the station on Sunday October 6th.

Assistant Chief McGrew has enlisted 2 more Cadets from the high school with a total of 4 now undergoing training at the Van Buren Intermediate School District Skills Center.

The HFD is working on specs for a new fire truck with hopes to have quotes in hand for the 2020 joint meeting with City and Township officials.

Planning is well underway to repeat last year’s well-received Halloween event at the fire station.

Ambulance Report

Pride Care Ambulance forwarded a written report of 9 Priority I calls at 7:21 and a 8 Priority II at 10:17 and 4 Priority III runs at 11:10 for an overall average response time of 9:12.

Public Works

Superintendent Dan Stauton was present to answer questions on his written report noting mostly mowing and various general maintenance tasks. 2 water turn-off’s and 2 water turn-on’s took place for the month. The city pumped 6.151 million gallons for the month.

Wastewater Treatment Plant

Plant Operator Tom Strand filed a written report indicating that all State of Michigan reports for the month have been filed along with routine maintenance tasks.

Ongoing third-party testing is still in process to narrow down the source of substandard performance issues that have plagued the facility since the major overhaul and update.

Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Pam Shultz presented a written report for the month in the amount of $83,654.28.

City Manager’s Report

City Manager Yemi Akinwale reported that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has completed an evaluation of the city in regard to the certification process for Redevelopment Ready Community status. It is now incumbent upon the city to make changes as required to then comply with best practices as noted in the report.

Updating the Tax Tribunal case with WODA/Doranne Greene – The hearing is scheduled for September 30th, A pre-trial conference took place on September 11th. The matter continues to place mounting litigation costs upon the city with the looming possibility of a negative decision that could compound the financial loss, should the Tax Tribunal rule against the city appraisal.

A pre-demolition meeting has been held with the contractor regarding properties at 32 & 34 West Main. The contractor has tentatively scheduled September 23rd as start date, pending availability of a demolition expert that is qualified to address the complication of shared walls with both buildings.

The land contract purchasers of 1 West Main Street have failed to make good on any their prior redevelopment promises and now have walked away from the purchase. With the use of DDA funds, Akinwale is moving forward to minimally repaint the building to aid the original owner who hopes to sell the property with a fresh look of curb appeal.

Old Business

The Council we review a request from Med+Leaf for a further amendment to the Marijuana Ordinance in regard to off-site surveillance video as the city requirement is actually more stringent than the State mandate. The problem is that local Internet service has in adequate bandwidth to handle the off-site transmission of 24-hour video surveillance for 90 days. Med+Leaf is requesting the city revise the ordinance to 30 days, in line with the State statute. The original ordinance was drafted by City Manager Akinwale working with City Attorney Harold Schuitmaker. No explanation was made as to why the local ordinance required such a provision. The matter will be reviewed by the council.

Formal notification was given of the city’s intent to sell Parcel # 80-52-816-045-00 on Marion Avenue pending the purchaser ability to obtain Marijuana Business licensing.

New Business

Commissioners heard from Attorney Jim Beck as representative for Bonna Vanderlyn regarding a 3’ x 18’ parcel that was improperly recorded when Vanderlyn purchase property decades ago at the site of the former City Hall and Fire Department. The small parcel was an alley at the time and is being requested by Vanderlyn’s attorney to be formally released via a Quit Claim Deed.

The Council voted unanimously to partner with the Hartford Lions to decorate Ely Park for the holidays in the amount of $1,000.


Resolution 2019-010 was present regarding Penalty Fees and Interest for Failure to File A Property Transfer Affidavit.

Having no further business mayor Rick Hall adjourned the meeting at 8:45 pm.

Coloma Township starting Parks Plan, citizens input includes restrooms and pickel ball court

By Annette Christie Coloma Charter Township officials held their first public hearing as they proceed with updating their 5-year Parks and Recreation Plan prior to their regular meeting held last Wednesday, September 11, 2019. Approximately a dozen people attended the public hearing and the community has received about 100 responses to the survey. At the top of the requests to be included in the plan are permanent restrooms at Washington Park, pickle ball courts, and for the Helen Street Park kept as a neighborhood park. LaGrow Consulting will be collecting and logging all of the responses. The results of it will be presented to the Parks & Recreation Committee followed by a presentation to the full board. The board observed a presentation by engineering firm Wightman & Associates, regarding the township’s asset management plan. While they are still in the process of obtaining all the data, the preliminary information appears in good favor. Frank LaPierre told the board that overall, the system was in very good condition, with the main problem being the conditions of their lift station pumps. Following the recommendation of LaPierre, the board approved to go after a USDA loan to fund the improvements to the system. They will be assisted by Andy Campbell of Baker Tilly a municipal financial company. Their firm has assisted over 350 municipalities with financing. The first step going forward is the lift station replacement fund. They approved a notice of intent for $2.7 million in revenue bonds for the sewer project. It will be posted 45 days after to allow for comments and feedback. Then LaPierre and Campbell expect to be back for the authorization of the issuance of the bonds. The board is looking at an interest rate of 2.75%. The board also discussed a possible Bobcat purchase with attachments. They will re-visit that at next month’s meeting. They also accepted a check in the amount of $2,000 from the Little Paw Paw Lake Association for some additional picnic tables at Helen St. Beach (a township park).

Hospital Auxiliary Seeking Vendors for Craft Show

Lakeland Hospital Watervliet Auxiliary is seeking artists and crafters for the organization’s annual craft show taking place on Saturday, October 19 at Watervliet Middle School. The craft show will be open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Vendors should plan to arrive at 7 a.m. to set up their booth. Cost of booth rental varies from $25 to $60, depending on the size of the booth space needed. Vendors must provide their own tables and power cords. For information, or to obtain an application, call 269.468.8301