Impact Church will have to wait a little longer to learn if the Lowell Township Board will ok its request to move to a location on Fulton Street. During their Monday meeting, board members scheduled a workshop to consider the issue further before making a decision.
The request was just one of several topics discussed during the meeting which, in contrast to the City Council’s short session, ran approximately two hours.
Impact Church Hoping to Move by Meijer
Currently located on Lincoln Lake Ave on property that straddles the City of Lowell and Vergennes Township, Impact Church is hoping to relocate to a parcel of land near Meijer and Biggby Coffee on Fulton Street. However, that land is zoned for commercial use and churches are not currently allowed there.
In November 2016, Impact Church first approached the Lowell Township Planning Commission to request the zoning ordinance be changed to allow churches on commercial property. While neighboring property owners had signaled their support, the planning commission raised concerns about traffic and the loss of property taxes that would occur by converting the land to a non-profit use.
Earlier this month, the Planning Commission gridlocked on whether to recommend the church be allowed to move forward with its plan. With member Carlton Blough abstaining, the remaining planning commissioners voted 2-2 on the proposal. As a result, it was sent to the township board without any recommendation.
On Monday, three members of the township board recused themselves from the discussion for various reasons: Carlton Blough, Jerry Hale and Linda Regan. The remaining four members decided they needed more time to study the issue and scheduled a tentative workshop for next week.
City/Township at Odds over Fire Authority Surplus
In other business, some members of the Lowell Township board expressed concern over plans for surplus money in the Lowell Area Fire Authority’s fund. While Lowell City Manager Mike Burns drafted a proposal for how to hold the leftover money, township members are concerned it will jeopardize the authority’s ability to obtain grants. No action was taken on the issue at the meeting, but it appears to be a matter that will be discussed further in the future.
Lowell Township Clerk Resigning
Linda Regan announced on Monday that she was resigning her position as township clerk and stepping down from the board. A long-time member, Regan has served the township for 17 years. “It has been a wonderful 17 years,” she said during her announcement, “but all good things must come to an end.”
All the board members agreed she would be greatly missed and also not easily replaced. A motion was made to hire Regan on a temporary basis so that she could provide support and training during the transition period for the new township clerk. That motion was carried unanimously.
Two Visitors to the Township Board
The Lowell Township Board also heard two presentations from visitors during their Monday meeting. Bruce Matthews, the outgoing executive director of the North Country Scenic Trail, stopped by to introduce himself to board members.
Representative Tom Albert was also on-hand to provide a legislative update. He noted the Michigan House of Representative recently passed reforms to the Michigan Merit Curriculum to allow greater flexibility in high school graduation requirements. “In 2004, the Michigan Merit Curriculum put some pretty high standards on what a student needed to graduate from high school,” Albert explained. “It really swung the pendulum pretty far in getting kids ready for college, but it left behind the kids [who need] vocational training.”
He also discussed criminal justice reform and the importance of ensuring inmates have access to personal development classes and skills training. These are vital to help inmates transition successfully back into the community and avoid further criminal activity after their release.
On a final note, Albert talked about the importance of addressing growing debt in local and state pension funds. “Local units from counties down to townships to authorities have an estimated $10 billion in unfunded healthcare and $4 billion in unfunded pension liabilities,” he noted. “It’s a mess.”
The next Lowell Township Board meeting will be held on May 15th at 7pm at the township hall.