By Sue Moore
The 22 local elected officials and administrators, meeting for the first time as a group, agreed that Schoolcraft’s future growth is predicated upon obtaining sewer connections, at least down U.S. 131 for businesses. What they also agreed in unison, is they like the small-town atmosphere and didn’t want that feeling to change if it meant too much growth.
Representatives from the school, the village, Schoolcraft and Prairie Ronde townships were asked to meet together by Superintendent Rusty Stitt, to consider the future for each entity and how they could work together to solve problems for the community.
“The most important take away from the meeting was that building trails and a sewer system would be the key to attracting new residents,” said Kathy Mastenbrook, representing the village and the school board.
Each representative of their unit of government, reviewed what they were doing to plan for growth and yet, keep it in check. Don Ulsh and Barry Visel, Schoolcraft Township supervisor and planning commission member respectively, noted that the township was the second fastest growing entity in Kalamazoo County after Texas township. The planning commission’s land use plan seeks to control where the growth will occur by limiting businesses to the U.S. 131 corridor and making sure that the rural agricultural low density on the land will stay in tact. It does envision higher housing density on the borders of the village. “We don’t see a lot of big developments on the horizon, Visel said.
The village of Schoolcraft is land-locked with only small parcels to build upon, Cheri Lutz, village manager, noted. The recent visioning plan that will reflect the village’s core values will be finalized in July has lofty goals and some that are very doable as it looks 20 years out, she said.
“Downtown property values are receding because there are no sewers for the businesses,” Greg Feldmeier, said. As a township trustee, he sat through several hearings on whether sewers should be built around the lakes and in the village. Village Trustee John Stodola cautioned, “we are talking about a lot of investment here. The council is trying to protect the poorest segment of the population.”
School board Trustee, Jennifer Gottschalk challenged the township and village officials to just go ahead and approve the sewer construction. She was quickly answered by Trustee Mike Rochholz. “We can’t dictate but we do need to educate and have an understanding of how this would help.”
Jason Walther, school board trustee, offered that lots of people are turned off by the word growth. “In my mind it’s about sustainability. Our school enrollment is tied to having sewers. I didn’t realize that until this discussion.”
As an example, Teresa Scott, Schoolcraft township treasurer said she and her husband had to build a house in Vicksburg because there was no land available in the village suitable for them to build upon.
Trails are the number one issue for people moving into the community, Ulsh said. We are talking with Three Rivers and Portage about a trail going north and south to connect these two entities.
Other ideas for better communications between the four groups represented at the meeting, included a central hub for finding volunteers to act as a clearing house. Stitt volunteered to look into this possibility as a school sponsored initiative and to initiate quarterly meetings with the four units of government. Stoboda, commented on the “great base of talent here, especially the library volunteers who have rallied around a cause. They are the most active volunteer group in the community.”