HARBERT — During a nearly three-hour long special June 6 Chikaming Township Board meeting with just one agenda item – Board Discussion with Zoning Administrator Concerning the Union Green Project – multiple issues related to the proposed condominium development at the corner of Red Arrow Highway and Goodwin Avenue (which recently gained revised site plan approval from the Planning Commission) drew intense scrutiny from members of the public and township officials.

Some of the conclusions reached, at least tentatively, included:

That the controversial three-building, 18-unit development on 1.05-acres did not exceed Union Pier overlay zoning district density requirements for multi-family mixed use since officials noted that there are no applicable requirements in place. Zoning Administrator Kelly Largent said the way the zoning rules are currently set up “I cannot get to any density standard” when it comes to a development like Union Green the Union Pier district. Board Trustee Rich Sullivan asked if there is a way to “correct that,” and Largent said she has compiled a “running list of things for the next text amendment package that we’re going to work on with the Planning Commission.” Sullivan later commented “we didn’t catch it, and it should have been caught.”

That state regulations are likely to be a crucial factor in determining the maximum number of people allowed to reside in Union Green – a figure that could be around half of the 200 that many of the development’s opponents have mentioned. Building Inspector Ted Hanson said the Michigan Building Code will set an occupancy limit on the Union Green development. “Just preliminarily looking at it I’m down around 97 occupants.”

The possible establishment of a homeowners association within Union Green could be a wild card when it comes to the issue of short-term rentals (which are allowed by the township if property owners get the proper license).

Many citizens spoke during the June 6 meeting and/or sent emails to township officials expressing opinions and asking questions pertaining to the Union Green development related to everything from density and how the decision could be appealed (they were told though Berrien County Trail Court) to the approved “live-work” commercial spaces and issues related to short-term rentals.

A loose end related to the Union Green site plan involves the current requirement that the front 50 percent of first floors along both Red Arrow Highway and Goodwin be commercial versus a Planning Commission recommendation the the Township Board change the overlay district zoning so that requirement would only exist along Red Arrow Highway (consideration of the tabled proposal is listed on the June 9 board agenda).

Several speakers questioned why the commercial zoning change that seems to benefit Union Green was already before the Township Board while the density issue is being grouped in with a list of changes for later.

Although Sharon Lindstrom said “Frankly this has been the most productive meet that I have attended” during the second public comment period once the meeting was nearing its end, Karen Doughty’s sentiment of “enough is enough” voiced during the earlier public comment session still seemed to resonate with many in the room.

Lindstrom also said “We all come at this very passionately. Some of the passion may bubble up periodically as frustration and anger, please don’t take it personally, we appreciate the work that you do.”

Board members Bill Marske and Sullivan clashed over issues related to the Union Green approval process during the June 6 meeting.

Township Supervisor David Bunte read a closing statement that included the following: “Those that have taken the time to constructively request clarity, and have been open to being fair and objective, your passion and your dedication to our community is greatly appreciated.”

He also said “There has been an organized campaign to misinform, to promote personal interpretations of our master plan and zoning ordinance … Our fiduciary responsibility is to uphold the legal document and protect the entire township from any legal jeopardy.”

He said others have attempted to demean, ridicule and openly chastise the abilities of their peers who have volunteered their time and dedication to the township.

“Having been personally subjected to bullying and discrimination over many years, I’ve always hoped that this community stood as a beacon of acceptance, even when we view things differently. I still have faith that it is.”

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