THREE OAKS — A request to rezone the Enterprise Park property at Schwark Road and U.S. 12, was tabled by the Three Oaks Village Planning Commission during an Oct. 1 meeting.

The unanimous vote followed a lengthy public comment period during which many questions about the move were raised, and approximately 50 petitions calling for the request to either be tabled or continued were delivered.

Although few details about the rezoning request were imparted by village or township officials on Oct. 1, during the public comment period it was indicated that the land is currently being used as a farm field and the new designation being sought is a mix of C-1 Commercial and MU-2.

During the Aug. 12 meeting of the Three Oaks Township Board, Supervisor George Mangold said that the township and Buffalo Rock LLC, the potential buyer and developer of the 68-acre Enterprise Park property located at the corner of U.S. 12 and Schwark Road have filed an application with the Village of Three Oaks for a zoning change for that parcel that would make it more compatible for development.

The property is currently zoned I-Industrial, and Buffalo Rock is proposing that the approximate 1,000 feet of frontage on U.S. 12 to a depth of approximately 330 feet be rezoned Commercial, with the remaining 60.5 acres being rezoned to MU-2 – General Mixed-Use.

Speaking on behalf of those involved in the petition drive during the Oct. 1 public hearing, Three Oaks resident Bob Gildo said the request asks that the property in question be changed to 10 acres of Commercial and 57.94 acres of MU2, which he said allows for residential as well as commercial development.

“I want you to know that we’re not asking you to deny the request … We don’t know if the idea of rezoning 67.74 acres of land outside the village limits is a good thing or a bad thing, but we’ve surely got some questions,” he said.

Among those questions (which Gildo said were contained in the submitted petitions) were:

• Does the village have the ability to rezone and extend public services to a property that is not contiguous to its boundaries?

• Did the village follow its own procedures in notifying the public about the date and time Oct. 1 hearing? (Gildo claimed the village did not publish a notice in a newspaper of general circulation not less than 15 days prior to the hearing and said the timing of its start was confusing).

• Gildo said the notice posted on the Village Hall door stated that the applicant requesting rezoning was Three Oaks Township, but the application for the rezoning lists Three Oaks Township/Buffalo Rock LLC (he called that firm “the potential buyer and developer of the …. parcel”).

• And he asked if Buffalo Rock LLC has standing to apply for the rezoning change.

Also addressing the Planning Commission during the hearing was Ron Zarantello, a local Realtor who said his review of public records pertaining to the property left him unsure as to who its legal owner is.

“There are two tax pins assigned to this parcel — the township parcel number and the village parcel number.”

He added that SEV taxable values and other assignments also are listed, even though land owned by a municipality is usually a “zero.”

And he said even though the parcel is currently classified as agricultural, it has a 100-percent homestead exemption.

Zarantello also asked if the parcel has even been offered for sale to the public on the MLS and has an appraisal been done?  

Nancy Hertel said she filed a FOIA request to see the rezoning application.

“The plan as I understand it would give 1,000 feet of frontage on U.S. 12, 300 feet deep, that would would be rezoned Commercial C-1. And the back parcel … would be MU-2. The concern I guess that I have is that MU-2 might enable somebody to come in really, given that broad classification … you could have all sorts of uses that people haven’t thought about completely.”

While the zoning allows for “fairly large housing units,” Hertel said MU-2 also allows such uses as bed and breakfasts, bars and taverns, financial institutions, greenhouses and nurseries, offices, “and maybe of most concern,” retail sales establishments of 10,000 square feet or less and 10,001 to 19,999 square feet.

Angela Reichert, a member of the Village DDA, said during the recently completed (and lengthy) process of updating the Master Plan the possibility of “big box” stores in the village was not popular.

During the Aug. 12 Township Board meeting the plan was said to be for a large balance of the property to be developed with multi-family residences consisting of approximately 200 to 300 units.

In 2015 the township voted to enter into a Public Act 425 agreement with the village in an attempt to better market the property. The mutual cooperation includes, among other things, that for all practical purposes that property is in effect part of the village, among other things, would provide municipal services and would levy and collect taxes.

Mangold submitted the request on behalf of the township, which he said (earlier in the Oct. 1 meeting) has “ownership on that.”

He added,” I have informed the parties, the development company, in regards to any requests you have … I asked them to contact you so all necessary information would be ready for this evening’s public hearing.”

Tom Flint read the conclusion to the petitions: “The joint effort of the township and the village to rezone a large parcel of land in a yet undisclosed manner presents enormous potential for negative consequences that culled have a major impact on the future viability of an otherwise thriving community. It could generate traffic congestion, dilute downtown business opportunity, place a strain on public services, discourage tourism and substantially change the character of the village.”

He said those signing the petitions were seeking an extension of the public hearing “to allow full and complete legal and technical analysis of the questions presented.”

The Planning Commission decided to reconvene the hearing at its November meeting after the questions and issues raised on Oct. 1 can be explored and clarified by legal counsel.

Also on Oct. 1, an update was given on the village Recreational Marijuana Committee’s efforts to gather information before the Village Council makes a decision on whether to “opt in” in any way (the state has authorized a variety of options).

Reichert urged the public to attend a 7 p.m. Oct. 15 committee meeting which will include a presentation by the police chief from Bangor, which currently has a medical marijuana dispensary.

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