NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo City Council OK’d a preliminary settlement agreement with Roger’s Wrecker Service, cleared the way for a March 7 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, began planning to mitigate flooding near the public beach, and approved a plan to protect the water system intake facility during a busy Monday, Jan. 27, meeting.
City Attorney C. Nicholas Curcio noted that the preliminary settlement agreement with Roger’s Wrecker Service, worked out during a lengthy Jan. 16 mediation session with mediator Charles Ammeson, is not the final settlement agreement.
“There will potentially be some refinements to the language for a final agreement that will come before the council at a later date (as early as the next meeting),” he said.
Curcio said one of the primary terms of the preliminary settlement agreement is that the former Wheel Inn site will no longer be used by the business.The preliminary settlement agreement states that future uses of that property at 800 Whittaker St. “shall be governed by the applicable existing zoning ordinance.”
Curcio said the area covering about half of the 742 Whittaker St. property behind the Roger’s Wrecker building (which includes a Tulacz Street easement) will be fenced in for overnight parking, and daytime parking will only be allowed in designated spaces in front of and beside the existing building (with an exception for customer vehicles dropped off after hours in the area beside the building).
Only cars and light trucks (no semi trucks or trailers) can be serviced at the 742 Whittaker St. facility, and two tow trucks will be stored in the fenced area.
The agreement is designed to cover a six-month period during which Roger’s Wrecker Service acquires a property at Interstate 94 Exit 4 that would be used for the services not allowed at the current site under the preliminary settlement agreement, while towing and servicing cars and light trucks would continue at 724 Whittaker St.
If the property acquisition was to fall through, Curco said the city “would have the right to proceed with the litigation, and the deal would essentially be off at that point.”
The council voted 5-0 to accept the preliminary settlement agreement.
Details of the preliminary settlement agreement as presented to the City Council include the following:
• This agreement is subject to the condition that it be approved by the New Buffalo City Council no later than February 10, 2020.
• The parties further agree that, upon approval by the New Buffalo City Council, the parties shall mutually draft a more formalized settlement agreement in the form of a Consent Judgment, and upon failure to agree as to terms to be contained therein shall return to mediation before the facilitative mediator identified herein.
• That Defendants’ present use of 742 Whittaker Street and Defendants’ reasonably reduced use of 800 Whittaker Street may continue for up to 6 months from the date of the mediation as long as Defendants fully endeavor to closing of the purchase and final preparation of the Exit 4 New Buffalo Township Properly for its other business purposes. (a later stipulation states “No parking or other use of 800 Whittaker Street in conjunction with Defendants’ automotive business”).
• Defendants and Plaintiff agree to have the Court enter a Consent Judgment no later than 6 months from the date of the mediation which: A. Memorializes that Defendants’ auto repair facility (for cars and light trucks only) is an allowed use subject to the terms of the Consent Judgment. B. Memorializes that Defendants’ towing operation (cars and light-trucks only and no semi-trucks or trailers) is an allowed use subject to the terms of the Consent Judgment. C. Memorializes that orderly impoundment of vehicles (cars and light trucks only) is also a lawful accessory use. D. Memorializes that the auto service operation and accessory towing/impoundment service permitted herein shall be completely confined to 742 Whittaker Street and the portion of Tulacz Street licensed as set forth below. E. Memorializes that any future uses on 800 Whittaker Street shall be governed by the applicable existing zoning ordinance. F. Memorializes that Defendants have no claim to the ownership of Tulacz Street.
• Plaintiff shall place and maintain in good order a solid-stockade type 7 foot fence along the boundaries of the Property facing Whittaker Street and the 800 Whittaker Parcel, in the area identified as Z (the back portion) on Exhibit A hereto. Plaintiff shall maintain a fence at least 6 feet in height (which may be a cyclone style fence or a solid-stockade type fence, at the Defendants’ discretion) along the southern and western boundaries of 742 Whittaker Street, in the area behind the building on the Property.
• Use of 742 Whittaker Street and the portion of the Tulacz Street identified as Z on Exhibit A shall be limited to orderly impoundment of vehicles and storage of vehicles in conjunction with the repair use (cars and light trucks only), with the exception that Plaintiffs may maintain 2 Tow Trucks within
the fenced area and may repair other Tow Trucks owned by Defendants at 742 Whittaker Street for the limited time of repair.
Also on Jan. 27, John Dooley of Dooley’s Lake House Pub talked about plans for a March 7 St. Patrick’s Day Parade “to do New Buffalo proud.”
He said Dustin Harvey and his family (of New Buffalo Beach Club), Notre Dame Alumni President Dolly Duffy, business owners including Rocky Troxell of U.S. 12 Speed & Custom, and a St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee have joined forced to help make the parade a reality.
Already lined up for the procession are 20 floats, several marching bands and more, with additional entries being sought. The application for a special use permit also mentioned entries such as pipes, leprechauns, horses, Irish dancers, classic cars and motorcycles, Shriners and mini bikes.
“We have a lot more feelers out there,” Dooley said. “We’re going to advertise far and wide.”
He said the date of March 7 was chosen because many regional parades including those in Chicago, St. Joseph and South Bend take place the following weekend.
Dooley later said the parade is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., beginning in the beach area and proceeding on Whittaker Street through the downtown area before heading west on Harrison Street to St. Mary of the Lake Church.
The City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the Special Event Application for the New Buffalo St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Dooley said he feels the community will benefit from the parade.
“It’s going to be fun.”
In another Jan. 27 matter, the City Council unanimously agreed to have Oselka Constructors Co. shore up the revetment structure protecting the water system intake facility located off Shore Drive that is increasingly threatened by the high waters of Lake Michigan via a project carrying an estimated cost of $124,700.
According to David P. Wolf of Oselka Constructors Co., as lake levels have increased a decreasing elevation differential with the revetment built around the intake building has allowed more energetic waves to get over the revetment causing erosion immediately behind the revetment and allowing some of the top revetment rocks to settle. He noted that there were several 100 pound limestone rocks that had been storm tossed several feet and many more 25 pound limestone rocks that had been storm tossed at least 40 feet.
The “Option 1” proposal approved by the council includes the following:
• Replace the existing lost material behind the wall with concrete rip rap and
mattress stone (north side only).
• Re-set & raise the last revetment rock that has settled because of the recent
erosion (approximately 50 feet long, north side only).
• Provide & place a row of 8000-pound (plus or minus) armor stones behind the existing wall, north of the concrete structures (approximately 70 feet long, north side only).
• Provide & place a row of 15,000-pound (plus or minus) armor stones behind the entire structure to provide more additional height (approximately 140 feet long north and south sides).
• Remove a portion of the washed lake rocks have been washed up in to the parking area.
There also was discussion of a less extensive Option 2 that carried an estimated price tag of $64,000. That plan focuses on the north side of the revetment and does not include the 15,000-pound “armor stones.”
Wolf noted that aspects of Option 1 could be added later if the second proposal proved inadequate.
And Tony McGhee, Vice President of Development Services for Abonmarche, presented options for mitigating flooding that has impacted the city’s lakefront area (including North Whittaker Street and Marquette Drive) on the lake side of the Whittaker Street Bridge.
A letter from Abonmarche that was pat of the City Council meeting packet stated: “The waterfront area of the community has been hit particularly hard … with the
boat launch, Lions Park, and North Whittaker Street (north of bridge) areas regularly being flooded and impacted by standing water. Given the current and projected water levels, City staff requested Abonmarche perform an assessment of the area to develop some conceptual approaches and cost estimates that would help mitigate the impact of these conditions on City assets (roads, parking lots, and sidewalks) as well help protect adjoining properties. The conditions which currently exist in the area are not surprising given the historically high water levels, the fact that the area is in a FEMA designated flood plain, and that a significant amount of the community’s waterfront area was wetland and open water before it was developed.
Constructing landscaped earthen berms in the area to protect the road and parking lot areas (one about 300 feet long and another around 90 feet in length) at a cost of approximately $15,000 to $20,000 seemed to be the preference of council members, although no vote was taken on Jan. 24.
In other Jan. 24 New Buffalo City Council action:
• City Manager David Richardson talked about a Galien River Sanitary District (GRSD) settlement agreement expected to be approved in the near future. He said the city was told by GRSD that they owed $1.8 million in back fees — an amount now reduced to $175,000 after issues related to over-billing, accounting errors and errors in measuring flow were taken into account (Abonmarche and Treasurer Kate Vyskocil were cited for their for their assistance in reaching the agreement).
• The council approved a site plan review and special use permit for plans to construct a STEAM facility along Clay Street near New Buffalo Middle/High School, but took no action on a site plan review/special use permit for outdoor seating at the former Warner Vineyards Tasting Room at 19 North Whittaker St. after learning that the business no longer had a lease there. Action on a site plan review and special use permit for a compressed natural gas filling facility and electric charging station at the 825 South Whittaker St. Ozinga Energy property was tabled pending further investigation of what level of noise it would create.
• The idea of beginning a test period of having portions of U.S. 12 mainly outside of the city reduced to three lanes (two for traffic and one for turns) beginning this spring to see how the “road diet” plan slated to become permanent following a 2021 resurfacing project was discussed. Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV said he has received nearly equal amounts of positive and negative feedback on the road diet idea. He also noted that while reducing the lanes to three leaves more room for the proposed Marquette Greenway Trail between New Buffalo and the Indiana State Line, the Michigan Department of Transportation is not providing funding for the trail as part of the U.S. 12 project, so grants will be needed to make the project a reality.
• The council approved the purchase finger printing equipment for the police department, installation and training at a cost of $5,403.