New full-time officer Micah Carlson (far right) and part-time officer Joshua Lyster (far left) with Police Chief Todd Taylor (second from right) and Sergeant Brandon Jones at the Chikaming Township Board meeting. - photo by John Gunner Gooch

HARBERT – After a lengthy discussion on the matter during their June 13 meeting, members of the Chikaming Township Board voted 4-1 to grant a land division appeal request for the property at 15860 Lakeshore Road, Union Pier, formerly operated as Gintaras Resort.

New owners George and Kathleen Peoples, and Adrienne Elsner, who purchased the property from Karaitis Trust, were represented by attorney Mark Miller who made the case to allow the new owners of the non-conforming parcel to honor the rental commitments of the previous ownership through Oct. 15 with the promise that five buildings there with existing non-conforming setbacks would be demolished and removed, and a land division would then create four parcels that would conform according to the language of the current Zoning Ordinance.

“Our problem is timing,” attorney Miller said. “The new owners don’t want to have to remove those five non-conforming buildings until the end of the rental season so they can meet the commitments made by the previous owners. After that the plan is to bring that parcel into compliance so it will meet all the township’s all of your setback and frontage requirements. There will be four parcels with one living unit on each parcel.

Township attorney Charles Hilmer said he felt what was being proposed made sense for all the parties involved.

“Giving them time allows them to honor the commitments the former owners made for this summer,” Hilmer commented. “The land division won’t happen unless those five buildings aren’t taken down.”

The deadline for those buildings to be demolished and removed is Dec. 21.

However, trustee Rich Sullivan, who cast the lone dissenting vote, had questions prior to the motion being approved.

“I feel this inconvenience is not the township’s problem, but it’s the problem of the buyers because the prior owners made all of these commitments to renters,” Sullivan said. “I feel like you’re here wanting us to solve a problem that we didn’t create.

“What’s the downside of waiting for October?” Sullivan continued. “I think it’s nice that you want to make this a conforming property, but personally I feel you should come back to the Board with this in October.”

Supervisor David Bunte said that he wasn’t pleased about the timing either, but he added that he was pleased by the commitment to have those five buildings demolished and the land division to create a family compound comprised of four conforming parcels.

The motion to approve the land division request came with the following stipulations: that the five buildings be demolished by Dec. 21; that the township be indemnified should Chikaming have to become the demolition owner; that the owners apply for demolition permits that are good for six months by June 21; and that buildings there situated on the lake bluff have their kitchens removed.

In other business, there was unanimous support on a motion to allow Indiana Michigan Power to replace the current streetlights to LED lighting, at no cost to the township.

There was also a unanimous vote to adopt a Small Cell Wireless Facilities Ordinance.

A motion to engage the services of Deb Terry of Skillbenders as a strategic planning consultant for the township at a cost of $1,100 was approved unanimously.

Bunte said he expected the strategic planning work to begin within the next 30 – 45 days.

Bunte led the new “Discussion Topic” agenda item that will become a staple on future monthly meeting agendas, and the 10 minute discussion was about what people thought Chikaming would look like in the year 2040.

Bunte said that input from the public on strategic planning would be very valued.

Fire Chief Mike Davidson said he would like to see more affordable housing so young couples and families who work in the township could afford to live in Chikaming and make even more contributions to the community.

Park Board member Jill Underhill said that in 20 years she envisioned that the proposed Linear Park in the county would have become a reality.

“I hope our park system will continue to offer more activities for people to participate in, with more year-round things to do,” Underhill added.

The topic for discussion at the July 11 meeting will be “Parks, Trails and Health.”

Finally, three public safety personnel were welcomed and applauded: Micah Carlson as a full-time member of the police department; Joshua Lyster as a part-time police officer; and Don Dobberstein as an on-call member of the fire department.

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