The seating at Park Place was rearranged to accommodate the crowd that was present again for the Pentwater Village Council meeting Oct. 11. Last month, public comment was almost entirely opposed to an ordinance passed in July by the village council to authorize the issuance of permits for medical and recreational marijuana establishments. This month, petitions were submitted to ask the village council not to allow these establishments in the Pentwater downtown area, but there were also comments from those who favor the ordinance and also favor siting the establishments downtown.
A new local organization called “Potwater, LLC,” is endorsing marijuana establishments in Pentwater as a benefit to the community, both financially and for business viability 12 months a year. With T-shirts reading, “Don’t Panic, It’s Organic” the presence of those who support this position were in evidence at the meeting. In addition, Richard Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce stated that, although his family owns a property in Pentwater and he has vacationed there for years, “The (marijuana) industry is here to stay and growing.” The Michigan chamber has wrestled with this issue, and has given its support for safe and properly regulated establishments.
One business owner stated her opinion that the village needs to move forward as times change. She added that she is proud of the village council, which has followed all of its guidelines for meetings, and suggested that residents have a duty to be present for meetings. “We are known as the village of ‘no,’” she stated. “We need to be more open.” Another business owner stated that she has been to see some dispensaries and they are pristine, but she still believes they are not appropriate for Pentwater.
Several residents requested that the village council consider allowing a vote that would permit individuals to decide on their own, and Rev. Sam Morrison called for those opposing the establishments in downtown Pentwater to stand to show that a majority of those present are against the ordinance as currently written. Many spoke about the unique character of Pentwater, and their view that Pentwater should not be known as “Potwater.” Several residents stated that they had voted for the legalization of marijuana in the state, but that was not an indication that they endorsed placement of marijuana establishments on Hancock Street.
Trustee Dan Nugent, who chairs the village’s ordinance committee, stated that he has had numerous conversations with residents on both sides, and still finds himself on the fence. He emphasized his appreciation of all those who came to talk to him, and were willing to listen as well. At this point, he believes the arguments have fallen about 50-50 for and against the ordinance, and he favors taking more time to hear from the planning commission following its research into the issue.
Trustee Jared Griffis moved to rescind the current ordinance, but after much discussion, the motion was defeated by a 3-4 vote (In favor: Ressel-Hoden, Griffis, Nugent; Opposed: Angell-Powell, Palmer, Bluhm and Village President Jeff Hodges). As a result, the process will continue as the planning commission considers the question of where marijuana establishments should be located in the village and under what zoning requirements, including a possible special use requirement. The zoning of such establishments involves a separate ordinance from the one passed by the village council in July.
In other matters, village Manager Chris Brown reported that the road construction on Park Street and Hancock Street is wrapped up, and for the first time, the village has intersection crosswalks and parking stripes. Fifth Street, Rush Street and Second Street are on track to be completed soon.
Ressel-Hodan reported for the Community Economic Development Committee, stating that the committee is reaching out to the school students for their suggestions for the village logo. The committee also discussed the need for a balance between short-term rentals and growth in the community. There are currently 72 licenses issued and a lot of noncompliance, and there are many short-term rental properties that are not licensed at all. Based on the committee’s discussion, the council voted under new business to refer the issue of short-term rentals to the ordinance committee for discussion of how many licenses for short-term rentals should be allowed and an increase of the fee for the license.
The village council presented Officer Amanda Payne and Chief Laude Hartrum with a Life Safety Award for their swift actions Sept. 1, using the chief’s own boat to rescue a man after his boat overturned in Lake Michigan in high wave conditions. The council also presented a proclamation to Ressel-Hodan as Pentwater Citizen of the Year for her many and excellent contributions to the welfare of the village.
Under new business, the village council also approved the following:
The sale of a 2015 police vehicle that is no longer useful, and the purchase of a new vehicle for up to $32,480. The cost of necessary equipment for the new vehicle will be considered at a later time.
The 2022 marina rates, which are dictated by the state, making sure that the village’s transient rates are not less than those for private marinas.
2nd Quarter Budget Amendments.
The 2022 Brew & Beats and October Fest special event permit applications with Palmer dissenting.
The 2022 chamber events road closures.
Halloween trick-or-treat hours Sunday, Oct. 31, from 5 – 7 p.m.
In response to several comments from residents concerning the microphone system at Park Place, Ressel-Hodan stated that the village and experts have spent hours working with and testing the system to try and correct problems with the mikes cutting out. She asked for patience and respect for the efforts being made.
Hartrum and Brown offered some reminders for residents. Hartrum stated that all yard signs must be placed in the yard of the resident and not in the public right-of-way. In addition, the police department is accepting property check requests for the winter. Forms are available at village hall. Brown indicated that fall leaf pick-up will likely begin by the end of the month, and residents should follow the village’s website and the reader sign under the water tower for information.