THREE OAKS — The Three Oaks Village Council voted 7-0 on June 10 to hire an attorney with expertise in marijuana-related businesses to help guide the Village Council as it determines how to move forward after receiving recommendations from the Planning Commission regarding the establishment of an ordinance that would set up the licensing process for adult use and medical marijuana  businesses.

The council had previously voted 5-2 during the June regular meeting against immediately opting in on recreational and medical marijuana businesses (Colleen Newquist and Becky Thomas supported the move while Village President Dave Grosse, Steve Graziano, John Kramer, John Pappa and Troy Zebell voted against the motion).

The planners on June 2 approved the following recommendations: Allow just one license in each of the categories for marijuana businesses; Limit the location of any retail operation to U.S. 12 and at least 500 feet from the elementary school; Have the Village Council engage with an attorney who specializes in marijuana businesses to draft the ordinance; Create an advisory committee on licensing to promote community engagement of that process; Give preference to local owners; Give preference to an independent business rather than a large organization; Develop a points system to help make choices;  Update and adjust zoning and regulations.

Newquist and Thomas supported opting in to licensing adult use of medical marijuana. Newquist said she felt the village had “kicked the can down the road long enough.”

Grosse said he favored getting an attorney first because “there are a lot of basic questions I think we need to get answered.”

Also on June 10, Village Council members Were told by Kathy Stady, Census Hub Coordinator for the Berrien Community Foundation which works with non-profits in Berrien County to “make sure we get a full count.” She said the foundation has awarded grants to various groups to achieve that goal.

She said the population of Three Oaks in 2010 was 1,622 people (with 18.8 percent hard to count — representing $547,000 per year).

So far this year (as of June 7) she said an estimated 62 percent of the population of Three Oaks has completed the Census, almost even with the national average (other figures include 62.6  percent for the county; 67 percent for Michigan).

Stady said the hardest-to-count areas of the county include Benton Harbor, Berrien Springs, Niles, Weesaw Township and the entire Harbor Country area.

Stady said the every 10 years U.S. Census count represents $1,800 per person a year in numerous federal programs, and she said the U.S. Census Bureau has projected that Berrien County will fall short of counting 30,000 people (representing $44 million annually).

She said local efforts to get everyone counted via the confidential 9-question, easy to complete form, noting that the COVID-19 situation and other complications/challenges have cause the deadline to be pushed back three months. After local non-profit groups have attempted to get everyone counted, the said Census employees will go door-to-door.

More information can be found at becountedberrien.org.

In other June 10 Business, the Three Oaks Village Council:

• Received a report from Newquist on the Planning Commission’s recent review of short-term rentals in the village which concluded that since only about four percent of the households are rented out that way it is not a pressing problem.

She added that is is something to keep an eye on, and said planners did favor raising the current fee of $35 for short-term rental properties (an annual amount of $75 plus a $25 application fee was later discussed). Village Manager said he would have a fee schedule for review at the next regular meeting.

• Was told the Chamberlain Path project is looking great with the sidewalk finished and the rest of the project expected to be completed soon. It was noted that it’s up to village to decide if it wishes to leave power outlets in the park open for the public to charge cell phones and other devices.

• Agreed to establish a ramp and two handicapped parking spaces at the parking lot adjacent to Carver Park while the contractors working on the Chamberlain Path project at a cost of $1,800. The Parks and Recreation Board also has discussed putting in a hedge between the lot and the park.

• Discussed changing its sidewalk policy so the village can begin conducting repairs on those most needing it. Village Manager Dan Faulkner said he would put together a report scoring the condition of sidewalks.

• Grosse said a couple of hand-washing stations have been installed downtown. Faulkner said they are being used.

• A committee of Kramer, Pappa and Grosse was appointed to work with Faulkner and staff members on providing regular status reports on the village’s sewage system ponds, the IPP, water projects and other issues related to the state EGLE agency.

• It was noted that the Village Council seats currently held by Kramer, Pappa and Zebell will be filled in the November election. The deadline for submitting petitions (available at Village Hall) is 4 p.m. July 21.

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