BOC blind-sided by planners’ resignations- Hoping to mend fences
By Rosemary Horvath
Clare County Board of Commission decided Wednesday to try mending broken fences with members of the County Planning Commission.
The board received letters of resignation from planners which Commissioner Karen Lipovsky declined to accept.
Board chairman Jim Gelios instructed County Administrator Tracy Byard to pull planners together to salvage the program.
Planners will be invited to a regular board meeting. “They can tell us what they want to do and we’ll tell them what we want,” Gelios said.
He and others said they were blind-sided by the resignations, particularly when the planning chairman “never brought up any issues” at a recent meeting, noted Commissioner Dale Majewski.
Resigning are chairman Rod Williams, vice chair Rodger Carey, secretary Jerry Bridges and Harrison representatives Virginia Collins and Jennie Pagel.
County representatives — commissioners Leonard Strouse and Rick LaBoda — remain appointees.
Melding together a planning commission in Clare County has never been easy. Planners have been in limbo off and on for years.
They lack authority as required in the 2008 Michigan Planning Enabling Act such as drafting a Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, to identify potential projects county government can work toward.
They are not encouraged to update a master plan or draft a countywide zoning ordinance.
“But what broke the camel’s back this time,” said Bridges, a member of the last two planning commissions, “was at a budget meeting we were called nonessential and nonproductive.”
Contacted Wednesday, Bridges said the county never delegates tasks.
“We’ve tried to get direction for a lot of things. We are supposed to do capital improvements but aren’t contacted because county commissioners do it on their own, which is illegal.”
The Lincoln Township resident acknowledged some area townships reject planning and zoning. Only six of the county’s 16 townships have zoning.
“Some treat zoning as a mortal enemy,” he said. “They run on belief it’s my property and I should do what I want with it.”
Without zoning, a day care center could end up next to a landfill or a half-million-dollar mansion next to a mobile home park, he said. Planning and zoning allows for all those uses but in specific areas of a township so residents and newcomers know in advance what permitted uses are, and where.
He added, “People who live in the county expect services from the county. Planning and zoning helps build a county into a better county to live in.”
Bridges had not heard of the county commission’s hope to reach out to planners. If so, he would reconsider resigning, he said. “I’m a big believer in planning. Without it you face a lot of problems down the road.”
With the planning commission in flux, county commissioners adopted a resolution waiving review of a new zoning ordinance for Hamilton Township. Bob Bess, township planning commission chairman, made the request.
The county planning commission could step in to review the ordinance in the future if the body remains intact.
Bess said the township zoning ordinance adopted in 2000 had been updated and changed.
Another touchy matter brought Jennifer Bukovinszky, associate attorney with Harrison law firm Dreyer & Hovey, and her client Yvonne Hovey, owner of the former Yvonne’s Aero Port Restaurant, 4557 N. Clare Ave., Harrison, to the board meeting.
Yvonne Hovey and Larry Hovey have filed suit against Jacqueline Kay Eggert who they say defaulted on a 2009 sales agreement to buy the business establishment and equipment from Yvonne Hovey.
Hovey first leased the property which the county owns in 1994. According to Bukovinszky, Hovey subleased the property to Eggert when she took over the business. The property is adjacent to the county airport.
When Eggert stopped paying on the building lease, the county replaced the security locks on the building.
Hovey said she has been unable to enter the premises to evaluate condition of the kitchen and other equipment she owns.
Bukovinszky said when Eggert defaulted on the county lease in September it should have reverted to Hovey. Instead, Hovey has been denied entry to the building. If this continues, she “will suck the county into a lawsuit,” Bukovinszky said.
Commissioners had previously discussed putting the building out for bid before knowing about the role Hovey still retained in the matter. Hovey expressed to commissioners an interest in reopening the restaurant business. Commissioners said they learned Wednesday for the first time of the sales agreement between Hovey and Eggert and the reversion clause of the county’s lease agreement.
Byard, the county administrator, will contact the county attorney.
Commissioner Lipovsky offered to meet Hovey at the restaurant to inspect the premises.
Chairman Gelios would like to see the restaurant reopen and would like to have the matter resolved by the next board meeting next month.
In other business, the board:
VOTED on union contracts with county employees although details will be available after contracts are signed. Commissioner Jack Kleinhardt was absent Wednesday. Here’s a breakdown:
Unanimous approval to continue with health care options as is for courts employees.
Rejected Unit One proposal for union contract.
Voted 4-2 ratifying deputies contract for two years. No votes were Commissioners Lynn Grim and Leonard Strouse.
Voted 5-1 ratifying corrections contract as presented. Grim voted no.
Voted 5-1 ratifying 911 Dispatch contract. Grim was no vote.
Voted 4-2 ratifying command contract as presented. Grim and Gelios voted no.
Grim said she objected to multiple year contracts and that in light of county finances contracts should have been limited to one year. All contracts but one will run three years.