City Council Highlights: Proposal 1 Discussion, Sale of Property to Township, Rec Park Committee, Phillips Steps Down

The regular City Council meeting on Monday, November 5 lasted approximately an hour and a half.  During this time a variety of agenda items were presented and discussed prior to the board going into closed session for the City Manager’s yearly evaluation.

Proposal 1 Discussion
City Attorney Dick Wendt was at last night’s meeting to provide information regarding Proposal 1.  Should the recreational use of marijuana on the ballot pass during today’s election, the City will have 10 days from the time the State Board of Canvassers certify the votes.  

Wendt reviewed the two main points of the proposal – personal possession and use and the establishment of marijuana establishments.  The first point will be allowed with no regulation from the City, only state permissions and restrictions can be enforced. However, the City does have the option to opt out of allowing retail businesses of marijuana for recreational use.  

Depending on the timing of vote certification from the State (which typically takes about a week), a special meeting may need to be called for this vote.  An ordinance will also need to be established prohibiting retail establishments within City limits. The passing of this ordinance would be done immediately through a super majority vote of at least four councilmembers.  Typically, an ordinance take effect 10 days after its official publication but because of the nature of the subject, the process would be expedited.

City Council should be able to make a decision during their regularly scheduled meeting and indicated they would be opting out.  

Resolution to Temporarily Allow Excess Wastewater
Council also approved a resolution and ordinance which corrects the city taking in an excessive amount of  Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) which would then violate the City’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.  As Litehouse gears up to treat its wastewater and send it to the city for processing, the company will be sending more BOD than what the current ordinance allows.  The resolution, which was worked on in part by the DEQ and approved by City Council, gives Suez, the company which manages the City’s wastewater, the authority to allow industrial pretreated wastewater in excess of what is allowed by City ordinance for a limited period of time.  Such an allowance gives a business time to adjust their process, with the requirement of eventually meeting proper levels deemed by ordinance. In the case of Litehouse, it is estimated they would be allowed to send an excess amount of pretreated wastewater to the City’s facility for up to six months, which would be monitored.  Accepting this excess is still within the limits the City’s treatment plant can handle. This special permission can be revoked at any time.

Sale of City Property to Lowell Charter Township
Property at 2526 Bowes Rd. was put out for bid.  Lowell Charter Township and Vergennes Broadband were the only two bid submission for the property.  City Manager, Mike Burns worked with Jerry Hale of Lowell Township and Stephanie and Ryan Peel of Vergennes Broadband to come up with a solution which will work for all parties.  Lowell Charter Township will purchase the property and use a portion of it as a gateway to its park behind Walgreens and allow Vergennes Broadband to use the remaining part of the property.  The portion being used for private, retail purposes would be taxable. Proceeds from the sale of the property will be used to fund retiree healthcare for the 2020 budget.  Part of the condition of sale to Lowell Charter Township will be that the property remain part of the City.

Recreation Park Steering Committee
A steering committee will be established to start discussion on a feasibility study for the future of Recreation Park after the Kent County Youth Fair leaves the grounds.  The City has spoken with some people who are interested in being involved and will look to find other interested parties to serve on the committee. Information on how to join the committee will be posted on the City’s webpage.  

Industrial Development District to be Established
City Council has a consensus to direct City Manager Mike Burns and City Attorney Dick Wendt to begin developing an Industrial Development District within the city.  The establishment of this district will make it easier for businesses seeking an Industrial Facility Tax Credit (IFTC). In recent years, King Milling and Big Boiler Brewing have sought this tax credit.  Currently King Milling is seeking another such credit as it works on a project at the old Michigan Wire building.

Councilmember Greg Canfield questioned how many new jobs would be created upon completion of this project siting only one was garnered the last time King Milling received an IFTC.  He questioned giving such credits without seeing gains for the City. However, the creation of the district is the first step in King Milling coming before Council to request the tax credit so no discussion or action on the matter took place.  

Other Approved Agenda Items
The five-member board also approved the City entering into a contract with MDOT for wayfinding sign installation.  This project is being paid for by monies from a grant.

Through Council consensus, City Manager Mike Burns has been directed to come up with a fee schedule for businesses seeking an IFTC credit.  Currently the City is incurring the cost of working on applications which are submitted including attorney costs, newspaper publications, postage, and staff hours.  A fee structure would pass these costs along to the applicant. It’s estimated the fees would be between $600 and $1,200. Burns will also work on establishing a process for reviewing these requests, which includes some councilmembers and staff working together.  His proposal should be brought before Council sometime in February.

Councilmember Jeff Phillips Resigns
During Councilmember comments, Jeff Phillips announced the meeting would be his last.  He accepted a job which conflicts with his ability to serve on City Council. A formal letter of resignation will be accepted for record at the next City Council meeting, at which time there will be 30 days until the seat must be filled.  The City will accept applications for anyone interested in filling the position and appoint someone from those who are interested. The person selected will fill out the remainder of Phillips’ term. His seat is up for re-election next November.  

Meeting Information
The next City Council meeting will take place in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall on Monday, November 19 at 7pm.  Meeting minutes, agendas and links to video recordings of meetings can be found on the city’s website.  Or check in with Lowell’s First Look after each meeting for a recap of what happened.

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