HARBERT – After a lengthy discussion on the matter during their July 11 meeting, members of the Chikaming Township Board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution in support of a transient lodging fee proposal that may make its way through the state legislature and provide a new revenue stream for Chikaming and other municipalities targeted specifically to support the development, expansion and maintenance of recreational facilities.
A similar resolution allowed the collection of such fees in cities with populations in access of 400,000, but if the new legislation passed it would do away with those population stipulations, and this type of “resort fee” could be levied and collected by local municipalities if so inclined, with a maximum amount set at five percent, and the municipalities having the power to set any percentage up to that figure, or declining to collect any percentage at all.
Supervisor David Bunte said he thought the implementation of such a fee would have the ability to help maintain and increase recreational facilities locally.
“Tourism is so important locally and across the state, and I believe that 32 other states already have legislation that is similar to this,” Bunte commented. “There are many things relating to this that still need to be discussed, but this is an opportunity for us to support this process, and if passed we would have control over it.”
Treasurer Liz Rettig wondered who would collect the fees and who would be enforcing their collections.
Trustee Rich Sullivan voted to approve the adoption of the resolution, but he also voiced some concerns over its implementation.
“I support the idea, but we came up with a Rental Ordinance, and now we’re going to be asking those people questions such as how many renters they have and how much money they’re making, and I think that’s too much information on what they’re doing,” he stated. “I think this could become a slippery slope.”
Bunte replied by saying when property owners make the decision to become renters their property becomes a business rather than a residence.
In other business, there was discussion pertaining to the Public Safety Commission.
It was reported that both Fire Chief Mike Davidson and Police Chief Todd Taylor would like to see those members meet at least four times annually. The current schedule has been for meetings to convene on a biannual basis.
Sullivan, who also serves on the Public Safety Commission, said they currently had an open seat and that they usually convene their meetings at 10 a.m.
In other business, Bunte said that strategic planning sessions for the township would begin at the end of August and that it was important to get input from the public and to make sure that a cross section of the community was represented.
He said he would do some outreach to the community, and suggestions for representatives included members from the township’s boards and commissions, business owners, a person from the rental field, a pastor from one of the churches, a person from one of the libraries serving Chikaming residents, and a restaurant owner.
Two public hearings took place during the meeting.
The first was a Dangerous Building hearing for a property located at 12297 Spruce Street, Sawyer.
It was determined that future action in the case would involve township attorney Charles Hilmer going to court to ask that a lien be put on that property.
The second public hearing resulted in the unanimous adoption of a motion for a resolution to create a Special Assessment District (SAD) to provide municipal water service to the homeowners on Montaign Place and Westerlund Way in Sawyer.
The total cost of the SAD is $252,000.
It was reported that it was determined there was not enough time for the Gintaras/Peoples property owners to apply for the demolition permits needed before the June 21 deadline that was established at a previous meeting, so an extension to July 21 was granted.
The president of the Berrien Community Foundation, Lisa Cripps-Downey, presented a grant check for $8,000 from that organization to the Cherry Beach Project and was thanked for their generous support.
Finally, the monthly discussion topic for the evening was “Our Parks, Our Trails, Your Health!”
Many of the comments related to promoting recreational opportunities in the area beyond the beaches and Lake Michigan, such as the many hiking trails in Harbor Country.
One such place mentioned specifically was Chikaming’s Park & Preserve and the mountain bike trail created there under the leadership of Kirk Schrader and numerous energetic and enthusiastic volunteers. That trail keeps being improved and expanded, and it’s currently six miles in length.