Blue Heron Rookery in Schoolcraft Allowed to Stay

big blue heron
Photo by Bill Krasean.

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft Township’s Planning Commission and township trustees have rejected a request to amend the township’s Master Plan to permit rezoning a site south of Vicksburg’s Leja Industrial Park from rural preservation to industrial use. Last month’s actions will preserve a blue heron rookery at the location.

The challenge to Schoolcraft Township’s Master Plan was presented to its planning commission by a request to rezone three parcels of land that lie just south of Vicksburg’s Leja Industrial Park.

rookery
Beth Aitken speaks to the Schoolcraft Township planning commission with Mike Hardy and Virginia Mongrieg also presenting their views. They were in support of keeping the Master Plan and thus the zoning for an 80 acre parcel of land on the west side of the paper mill in Vicksburg, as rural residential.

Rezoning of the three parcels was requested by Greenstone Farm Credit Services, which owns the land following a foreclosure. It is believed the intent is to sell it to the Village of Vicksburg for further industrial park development, according to Virginia Mongrieg, Schoolcraft Township clerk. The village might then have negotiated an agreement with the township allowing it to become a part of the village.

Several impassioned people in the audience presented a case for preserving existing zoning. Mike Hardy, who is a village resident, said he was speaking on behalf of the blue heron population, which has a sizeable waterfront rookery on the property. He presented a letter of support from the Michigan Audubon Society and another from the Kalamazoo Audubon Society written by Penny Briscoe, a Barton Lake resident. He asked the board to protect this unique natural area because of the rookery.

Beth Aitken appealed the request as a resident of Schoolcraft Township and a volunteer for the Michigan DNR’s Natural Heritage program. “Wetlands provide a habitat where nature can breed and raise their own, but are fast disappearing in the state. I believe this proposal would be drastic.”

A letter was submitted by Marti Moore in support of the current rural residential designation, as she lives very close to the area in question.

Board members listened intently, then commented. Commissioners Dave Reno, Charles Bibart and Ken Hovenkamp agreed the arguments presented were persuasive. Nobody from Greenstone attended. The request was turned down by a voice vote.

Township trustees later agreed with the planning commission action.

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