Schoolcraft Township location slated for roundabout

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

A Kalamazoo County Road Commission representative in a monthly update told Schoolcraft Township trustees the county will build a roundabout at the intersection of 23rd Street and TU Avenue after a one-year delay.

The trustees and residents have voiced displeasure about the project.

Road commission officials have said the roundabout is part of a plan to improve a link between Sprinkle and Portage over TU Avenue, 23rd Street and U Avenue, repaving them as primary roads. The roundabout will add a safety measure. At a public meeting a year ago, the cost was estimated at $350,000, 90% of it from federal funding.

In other matters:

Barry Visel from the Schoolcraft Historical Society reported that a capital funds drive to make needed repairs and improvements to the Dr. Nathan Thomas Underground Railroad House in Schoolcraft is going ahead. Visel asked the board for $25,000 toward a goal of $95,000 for the needed work. The Board granted $10,000 from this year’s budget to help with the project. The board will also consider future contributions to the project during the 2024 budgeting process.

Board members received rumors via social media that there would be a question on the ballot about creating a charter township.

This is untrue.

Township officials reminded the public that all the information about township actions and about the ballot can be found online on the township website. To help with misinformation, the Board encourages residents to confirm information. Township Clerk Virginia Mongreig coordinated with the county clerk and posted a sample ballot on the website for residents to see. The only item on the Nov. 7 ballot for Schoolcraft Township Residents is a countywide veterans services millage proposal.

The Planning Commission in its monthly meeting shared the results of the survey about township planning that was taken this summer. Results are posted on the Township website.

In the parks program report it was announced that Vicksburg Rocket Football will be moving to Swan Park. A new field and other amenities are being set up to accommodate the program and the families and coaches are excited to have such a great facility to use.

Schoolcraft OKs tax break for Clark Logic

By Steve Waldron

Clark Logic will lease property at 200 Lee Street in Schoolcraft to Stryker Corporation for use as a warehouse and distribution facility, President Jamie Clark told the Village Council at an October meeting.

The site, adjacent to a Clark-owned building on East Eliza, will be leased through a partner, Kenco Logistic Services.

The announcement was made during a public hearing on Clark Logic’s request for an industrial facilities tax exemption certificate for the property. The council approved the request.

In other matters:

  • Work has started toward restoration of the former Schnauzer’s building to meet code requirements, a council-appointed hearing officer told the council. Debris removal has begun, and the owner has submitted architectural plans to bring the building into compliance with village requirements. But a second building considered dangerous, a house at 203 Pine Street, should be demolished, the hearing officer told the council. Habitat for Humanity representatives visited the property and determined that they would not be able to assist the property owner with his efforts to bring the property into compliance. Due to the presence of asbestos in the house, it should be demolished by a professional licensed to deal with hazardous materials, the council was told.
  • Only one bid was received by the Village from waste haulers for the annual Village Spring Clean-Up in 2024. The Council voted to approve the $2,785 bid from Best Way Disposal.
  • A resident critical of the enforcement of a village prohibition of parking on residential street right of way said he felt he was being targeted by the Council. The Village Council President Keith Gunnett denied the accusation. Police Chief Scott Smith said more than 70 addresses have been contacted regarding compliance with the Village’s right-of-way requirements.
  • Nancy Rafferty, president of the Schoolcraft Historical Society, thanked the Council for its recent contribution to the renovation efforts underway at the Dr. Nathan Thomas Underground Railroad House Museum.
  • A citizen asked why the village isn’t planning to take advantage of the upcoming tearing up of Grand Street to install sewer pipe through the downtown business district. Council members explained that if a sewer system is ever installed, pipes would be placed behind buildings facing Grand. If placed on Grand, later repair would require closing part of the street. The citizen also asked if the village has given up on the building a sewer system. Council members said they continue to seek additional funds for sewers. At this time, the focus is on meeting a state unfunded Clean Water mandate to replace the Schoolcraft’s well head as well as the existing water lines within the Village, a $9 million expense.
  • Another resident asked if the Village has any ordinances regarding non-owner-occupied homes being bought by speculators and left vacant. The resident noted the house next to his property was sold in August, is unoccupied and untended and beginning to look “derelict.” The resident was told there are no ordinances relating to this issue.

Vicksburg Planning Commission discusses Biggby

By Jef Rietsma

A nationally recognized coffee chain hoping to break into the Vicksburg market will have a fair amount of information to present when its plan goes before municipal officials.

During the Vicksburg Planning Commission’s Oct. 9 meeting, discussion centered on Biggby’s proposed location at 215 E. Prairie St., the northwest corner of East Prairie and North Richardson streets.

Before planning commission members discussed the proposal, however, a local businessowner expressed concerns about the magnitude of competition Biggby’s would pose.

Mezanmi Play Café owner Renee Janofski, a lifelong Vicksburg resident, told planning commission members Biggby would be detrimental to Mezanmi and other locally owned businesses.

“It would probably be the beginning of the end for our business as a coffee shop and as a play area. We have three main sources of revenue: Coffee is our number 1 source of revenue, the play area is our second source of revenue and then birthday party rentals is our third,” she said. “Vicksburg has been a great space, we’ve been supported here, our coffee sales are just starting to take off … bringing in a Biggby across the street from us would be like bringing in a Meijer to Family Fare. It just doesn’t make sense for our small village.”

Janofski said she opened Mezanmi in Vicksburg three years ago. A second location, opened last year in Mattawan, was closed in October.

Village Council members in September expressed concerns about the proposed Biggby’s, focusing their apprehension on traffic patterns into and out of the drive-through property. It was noted that the busiest time of day would likely coincide with student drop-off at nearby Vicksburg Middle School, a situation that presents a congested but short-lived traffic situation in the area of Prairie and Richardson.

Village Manager Jim Mallery shared with the planning commission a summary of communication the village has made with Biggby officials and the proposed site’s developer.

“There’s 14 different points that have been communicated to the development team of Biggby’s, as well as (an) engineering memorandum from a zoning perspective … as well as having our engineers dig in behind the scenes as we work with any potential developer,” Mallery said. “So, there has been communication, again, on 14 different points with the development (of) Biggby’s.”

Mallery continued: “I want to assure the Planning Commission and the public that it is looked at from the lens of legality of what the ordinances require for the village of Vicksburg and proceed in that manner.”

Mallery said he expected a response from developers by mid-October. There’s a good chance, he noted, the matter could appear before the Planning Commission at its Nov. 13 meeting.

In an unrelated matter, Mallery provided an update on construction of the new village office. He said the current time frame shows the facility will be completed in December and village meetings will likely start taking place there in January.