NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Township Board heard an update on two initiatives affecting the area’s economy, along with a final plea to put a pause to its public safety special assessment district during its March 15 regular meeting.
Ron Watson, secretary of the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance, said the group has determined that state and federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, will not be able to resume beach nourishment which was halted in 1995 due to lack of funds. Thus, he said the group is proceeding with a “takings” lawsuit against the government to recover losses due to shoreline erosion and costs of preventive measures which he estimated to be between $80 and $100 million. He said lawsuit winnings would be put into a trust fund for beach nourishment and offshore breakwaters.
Watson said the lawsuit will probably be a two- to three-year endeavor. He hopes to file the lawsuit by March 31 and no later than April 15.
Township Supervisor Michelle Heit said the township will hold a special meeting, if needed, to finalize its support of the lawsuit. She said the township aims to recover its lost tax revenues as well as revenues from its recently acquired Pleasure Isle Marina.
The Alliance represents property owners and homeowner associations from New Buffalo south to Grand Beach. Watson said local governments also have supported the Alliance’s efforts although the Village of Michiana has opted out of the lawsuit. He thanked Heit for her active support and participation.
Cornerstone Alliance’s Rob Cleveland updated the board on the group’s COVID assistance efforts to more than 475 Berrien County businesses by facilitating more than 300 loans totaling more than $1.7 million. He said www.BerrienReopens.org was created to provide information and guidance from area health and business organizations.
Cleveland also reported that a Move to Michigan program to encourage workers to move to the area has “exceeded expectations” resulting in widespread media coverage and exposure along with 23 families moving to the area representing $1.3 million in annual local spending.
During public comment at the end of the meeting, Grand Beach resident Ed Trainor reiterated his plea to board members to “put a pause” on its Public Safety Special Assessment.
Trainor thinks the board can avoid legal costs by delaying action until it provides all documents and considers all options in public. He said the board was demonstrating “bad government” that will become an “embarrassment.” There was no discussion from the board following Trainor’s comments.
On March 16, Trainor reported that 101 “and still counting” property owners had filed an appeal of the SAD with the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Trainor has been urging the appeals because of what he believes are unfair tax increases over the next 20 years and threats to the village’s home rule rights.
In his monthly report for the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Ryan Sullivan said the past winter was the slowest he could recall in terms of crashes, slide-offs and residential break-ins. However, Sullivan said did notice more packages left on porches and doorbell surveillance cameras. If residents notice anything suspicious, Sullivan urged them to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire Chief Jamie Flick reported that the long-awaited new fire truck was scheduled to arrive the following day and would be formally put in service after a “push-in” ceremony in mid-April. Flick also reported that the township raised more than $3,000 for the Special Olympics during the Polar Plunge held at Pleasure Isle Marina after cutting through one-foot of ice.
Marina Manager Julie Flick said the township was on target for its April 15 opening of Pleasure Isle Marina, although Coho fishermen are already active. She reported that the marina rentals are already full.
In her report from The Pokagon Fund, Township Clerk Judy Zabicki reported the fund was supporting the Berrien County Internet Broadband Task Force in collecting data and urged residents to complete the five-minute survey through the link on the township’s website.
The Township Board approved the fourth payment for the public safety building of $388,000 and payments totaling $5,000 for the township’s half of the Union Pier trailhead building.
Also approved was a resolution declaring March as Restaurant Month urging support from citizens for the struggling restaurants, and the board agreed that opening for Music in the Park with take-outs for local restaurants was a good place to start in reopening the township’s park facilities.