By Pat Maurer
Plans are underway to open a new restaurant and bar in downtown Clare, City Manager Ken Hibl reported Monday night.
The Commission unanimously gave its approval to issue a “letter of commitment” for an Economic Development Liquor License at the regular third Monday meeting. The Clare Downtown Development Authority approved the “special license” April 4 and recommended City approval.
Steve Barnes, owner of Maxwell’s Flowers and two business partners, Travis Harrison and Melissa Weaver, were at the meeting to explain their proposal to the board.
Barnes said they are in the preliminary stages of the process of purchasing a building in the Downtown Development District for the project, unique to the area, which would feature Michigan-made craft beer and wines as well as food. He did not give the location of the building.
Hibl reported that the partners consider the issuance of a liquor license a “key factor in the success of their proposed business venture.” He said, “I recommend that the City Commission…approve the issuance of a letter of commitment to Mr. Barns. The approval of the request certainly promotes economic development in the City’s downtown district”
The special “special development or redevelopment project area liquor license” that they are seeking was established in 2007 by the Michigan legislature and can only be issued for a business within a development or redevelopment district in a community and “the business establishment must be located within the boundaries of DDA District to be eligible,” Hibl said in his agenda report. He added that the requirements for this type of license are very complicated. One of the requirements is $75,000 in building improvements.
Barnes said they are planning to follow historic guidelines in their renovations. The City approval and issuance of the letter will expedite the “very lengthy and detailed” process to have the license issued, he said.
With the coming renovation of East Colonville Road, the poor condition of the present roadway, and construction of the new Clare Industrial Park North, the City Commission voted unanimously to lower the speed limit from 55 mph to 35 mph on the one-mile stretch from Eberhart Road to Old U.S. 27 “as a temporary safety measure.”
The city recently assumed jurisdiction of East Colonville from Clare Avenue to Eberhart.
The Commission had received an email and letter on the matter. Grant Township resident Marge Bell objected to changing the speed limit at all, while Dave Forsberg, who frequently uses the road, recommended reducing the speed limit to 45 mph on that portion of Colonville.
County Commissioner Leonard Strouse noted that because the speed limit on Clare Avenue on the hill is 50, “it could be more confusing for drivers.” Hibl noted that because Old U.S. 27 (Clare Ave./McEwan Street) is a State business route, the Michigan Department of Transportation determines the speed limit. “We have no say in the matter,” he said.
Clare Police Chief Brian Gregory recommended lowering the Colonville Road speed limit to 35. “There is only a ten second time difference to travel that mile at 35 rather than 45,” he said, “but the difference in damage and injuries incurred in an accident would be considerable.” He continued, “Because of the increased influx of traffic up there with semis, it would be much safer.
The City Staff recommended lowering the limit to 35 mph with a re-evaluation in the fall after construction is complete. Both Commissioner Bob Bonham and Jean McConnell said they would support it as long as it is a temporary change.
During his City Manager’s Report, Hibl also reported that Clare’s Industrial Development Corporation has approved the sale of seven acres in the new Industrial Park to the Clare Northern Group, who is planning to build an 80,000 square foot spec building on the parcel.
However, he reported, “The Economic Development Agency “has put this, and all future sales of property there…be put on hold until they have verified that we [the City] has clear title to the property and they have approved design specification for the new park.” He said the City’s engineering firm, Gourdie Fraser and Associates and the City Attorney are working to complete those requirements. “If we are not able to satisfy EDA’s requirements in the next ten to twelve days, we are in jeopardy of losing this sale and the construction of this new building in our park this summer.”
Hibl also reported that the police department has received a United States Department of Agriculture grant for $12,500 to purchase new lap top computers for police vehicles and equip them with software for paperless citations.
Other business at the City meeting Monday included:
*A Public Hearing followed by the approval of the establishment of an Industrial Development District for the Clare North Industrial Park.
*Renewal of the Central Michigan Mutual Aid and Reciprocal Law Enforcement Agreement.
*Approval of the low bid of $24,344.09 from Peerless Midwest for cleaning, maintenance and rehabilitation of Public Well No. 7.
*A Public Hearing and first reading of an ordinance amendment to protect the City’s well-head areas as recommended by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
*The appointment of Matt Miller to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for three years.
*Approval of bills totaling $53,498.27.