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Tag Archive | "city council"

City prepares to adopt marijuana ordinance


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Planning Commission and Cedar Springs City Council are preparing to move forward on a proposed ordinance allowing the establishment of various types of adult recreational marijuana businesses in the city.

“The Cedar Springs Planning Commission and City Council will be reviewing two ordinances at their June meetings that would permit marihuana businesses to open and operate within the City,” reads an announcement on the city’s website. “The idea of allowing marihuana businesses to locate in the City has been discussed since November of 2018 when voters initially passed Prop 1 of 2018. The final draft would allow marihuana businesses to operate in various industrial and commercial parts of the City with certain restrictions imposed on them to maintain the safety and character of the City for its citizens.”

City Manager Mike Womack said that he’s tried slow-walking this marihuana ordinance process “because we’ve wanted transparency and public input throughout and with COVID19 and virtual ZOOM meetings, I have felt it especially important to give the public more opportunity for input and discussion. At this point I am confident that all persons with interest in the matter have been given ample notice and opportunity for input and I believe the Planning Commission and Council are ready to move forward.  Council will have the opportunity to pass the ordinance on June 11th but they could also table for discussion into July if they choose.”

To read the memo about what types of businesses can be located where, read the memo at https://cityofcedarsprings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MJ-Final-Draft-Memo-5-26-2020.pdf.

If anyone has any thoughts, comments or concerns regarding this proposal please e-mail the City Manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or you can e-mail individual Council members by goi  online to https://cityofcedarsprings.org/city-council/ and choosing a City Council member to email.

Due to the ongoing COVID19 threat, the Planning Commission and City Council June meetings will be available to view and participate in virtually via the City’s telephone and online meeting platform ZOOM. Instructions of how to participate in those meetings via ZOOM are posted by the City Clerk on the City’s website under NEWS.

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The City Council


By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

The last two weeks I’ve discussed the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority. Today we’ll talk about the City Council, my boss(es).  There are two primary different types of local governments in the United States—the “Strong Mayor” form and the “Council-Manager” form. These two forms combine to account for 90 percent of all local governments. The Strong Mayor form is what people primarily think of when they think of local government, even though it is the less common version compared to Council-Manager. The Strong Mayor form seems to be more prevalent in huge cities like Chicago and Detroit, while Council-Manager is more common in smaller communities like Rockford, Sparta, Greenville and Cedar Springs.  

There are advantages to both forms of government but since Cedar Springs operates as a Council-Manager government we will be talking about how the Cedar Springs City Council (CC) works. The City Council is composed of seven City residents who all must be a “qualified elector” (See Mich Const Article II § 1 of 1963).  After each election, the CC members choose between themselves who shall serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Legally speaking, the Mayor is imbued with the power to run meetings; they are the ceremonial head of the government; they are the City’s conservator of the peace; and they shall authenticate all ordinances, motions and resolutions of the Council by their signature. The Mayor does not have any veto power over the Council but does have an equal voice and vote to every other member of the Council.  

The Mayor Pro Tem undertakes those same powers in the absence of the Mayor but in reality, they both share in representing the government in both a legal and ceremonial capacity. 

The other five councilpersons combine with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem to undertake all “legislative or policy forming powers” in the City. While the City Council is the ultimate authority on virtually everything in the City, on a day-to-day basis, the CC employs a City Manager to run the administrative operations of the government. The CC hires a City Manager on the “basis of training and ability alone” and entrusts the City Manager to legally, ethically and effectively run the City on their behalf.  

The City Manager daily “steps into the shoes” of the Mayor and City Council and runs the City while following the laws, rules and policies that the CC has enacted throughout the years. In Cedar Springs, the City Manager communicates with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem on a frequent basis to discuss various major issues facing in the City. The City Manager works with the City Council to address citizen concerns. They work together to develop good laws and policies for the whole City but the City Manager has no vote on such matters and can only advise the Council. One important distinction to understand is that the City Manager does not work for the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem or any other individual councilperson but instead works for the Council as a group, requiring a consensus of four of seven of those persons to enact laws or policies.

Once a month, the City Manager and city hall staff brings various issues to the City Council for their review, discussion and approval. The Council reviews all the spending and finances of the City and gives the City Manager direction on how to proceed on various issues into the future. The City Council members will also bring issues and concerns that they have identified to the whole Council for the discussion and potential action (though, its generally quicker and easier for a citizen to approach City Hall to get any issues resolved). 

If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns about how the City Council operate please e-mail the City Manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or you can find more information about the City Council at https://cityofcedarsprings.org/city-council/. 

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City council appoints Hall another term as Mayor



The City of Cedar Springs held their reorganizational meeting last Thursday, November 14. Election results were announced for City Council member Molly Nixon who ran ran unopposed in the November election. She was was elected to another four-year-term. She was not at the meeting so will be sworn in at a later date.

The Council also voted to appoint Jerry Hall to his sixth term as Mayor, and Pam Conley to another year as Mayor Pro-tem. 

To watch a recording of the entire meeting, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UraKN8J_HoY.

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Money wasted on pocket park


Post Scripts NOTICE: The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to Post Scripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

* We only print positive letters about candidates one week prior to the election.


 

Many of you may be familiar with the area just to the north of city hall. That is the area that previously had broken cement with two handicapped parking spaces. It was with anticipation that I noticed work being done on that area. Problem is, it was not fixing the parking spaces, but putting in what is called a “pocket park.” The city council and the city manager decided that would be a better use for the space. It may look better than the broken concrete but it’s not very useful. There is no seating, no parking and no identifiable useful space. With winter coming, whatever use might have been imagined for the “park” is not going to happen at least until spring. Handicapped parking was at least a year around use.

The handicapped parking is now out on Ash Street, in another area with broken concrete and only one space instead of two. It is now a much longer and painful walk to get into city hall for anyone who must count each step with a mobility aid. If you are not very careful, you will be in danger of falling if your cane or walker falls into one of the cracks. It doesn’t appear that our handicapped residents are considered when these types of decisions are made.

People who make these decisions should not be allowed to decide how to spend the three million dollars that is being asked for to build a new fire barn. I suggest, if you agree, to vote NO on the fire barn. 

Allen King

City of Cedar Springs

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Step back in time: 79th Red Flannel Festival


It’s Red Flannel time again, and the festival board is gearing up to celebrate their 79th event on the last weekend in September and first weekend in October with some new fun events to accompany the Red Flannel traditions. 

This year the theme is “Step back in time” and the board opened up the logo and design to the art students at Cedar Springs High School. The board had over 150 entries. With help from the CSHS art teacher, they chose Haley VanHouton’s design.

“Step back in Time 79 came to life when we discovered several past festival pins and some merchandise,” explained Red Flannel Board member LoraLee Nauta. “What a great way to show how far the RFF and Cedar Springs Community has come with the changes of times and styles.”  

They felt that VanHouton’s design captured that feeling. “Congratulations, Haley, you have done a great job representing the RFF & Cedar Springs, keeping up with the spirit and pride,” said Nauta.

Back by proper demand will be the Lumberjack Show, the Lumberjack Dinner at Cedar Springs High School on the night of the Queen Scholarship pageant, Bed Races, New Kids Zone, Food Trucks and more. Watch for brochures with a list of events, times & locations, as well as a schedule in the Post in two weeks.

The new “Kids Zone” will be on Sept. 29, 11:00 am -4:00 pm at the Grand Lodge.  There will be a donut decorating contest, several games, and prizes. “We don’t want to tell you everything and ruin all the surprises!” said Nauta.

Also new this year is Board President Nancy Deyman, who took over the reins after former President Randy VanDuyn resigned in the spring.

Another new feature is the The Red Flannel office, which underwent a remodel and received an updated look this year.

Stop in for a visit and check out their new stuff. All merchandise is available for purchase. The new office hours are: Sept 4-22: Tues, Thurs, Fri. & Sat   11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m, and  Wed 3:00 pm-6:30 pm. Sept 23-Oct 5: Monday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. except Wednesday 2-6 p.m. Oct 6th – Festival day  opens at 9:00 a.m. – until 5:00 p.m. They are  also available by appointment.

“Nancy Deyman (President) and the entire Red Flannel Board would like to thank all volunteers, City council, and Sheriff dept. for helping us make this fun filled event happen. It takes a community to make this happen. So a big thank you to Cedar Springs,” they said.

Watch next week’s Post for updates on what events are happening over Red Flannel Days!

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City Manager receives high marks in evaluation


 

City Manager Mike Womack

By Judy Reed

A two-year review of Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack by the City Council shows that they like what they see.

Womack scored an overall 4.4 average out of 5 possible points during his review last month, which covered personnel management; administrative skills; intergovernmental relations; long range planning; interpersonal skills; relationship with council; and personal and professional attributes.

“I love the direction the city is going,” said Councilmember Molly Nixon. “There is new, beautiful development throughout the city. There is art and green space. More development is planned for Main Street and I am excited to see what will come.”

Mayor pro-tem Pam Conley was also pleased with city improvements. “Over the last year there has been a lot of great work on the revitalization of the Downtown Development Authority, potential new fire station, and working to bring in new business,” she noted.

Councilmember Perry Hopkins did have one word of advice: “He can have his own expectations for a city, but remember what the community wants and needs,” he said.

Womack, a lawyer from the east side of the state, is enjoying his job here as City Manager. “The last two years have been really quite nice. I’ve learned a lot and I have really been able to use my legal and management skills to chart a good economic development direction here in the City. I have developed a lot of good working relationships and friendships with members of the community including the City Council and Planning Commission members.”

So what has Womack accomplished in his two years here?

“I’ve accomplished a ton of stuff but it never feels like I’ve accomplished enough,” he remarked. “The largest single accomplishment that I’ve completed over the last two years was the complete revamping of the Downtown Development District which will pump about $15,000 into improving the downtown this year. The DDA had been unfunded for 10 years previous to this work. I’ve also spent a lot of time and effort making the zoning laws work for citizens and for businesses and not against them. The boards and I have worked to extensively rewrite our zoning ordinances to not only be more business friendly but also to make them easier to understand for non-professional entrepreneurs who want to open a business here in the City.”

What does he think about our community? “I’m continually impressed by the amount of volunteerism that the community puts forward, from cleaning up the parks and roads in the spring to the countless hours invested by board members, citizens and business owners in planning out the community or donating money to community events like the library parties. I’m also thankful that businesses have started to take notice of the good work that the government and local business community is undertaking to bring them in for the citizens of the Cedar Springs area. I also feel very fortunate that my staff, elected officials, board members, business owners and local government officials have, almost entirely, been very easy to work with and all are focused on making the City and surrounding area better for the citizens.”

Womack’s contract is up on August 1, 2019. He said he has had informal discussion with council members about possibly extending it but nothing has been formalized yet. 

 

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Beekeeping now legal in city


Residents can now apply for a permit to keep bees in the City of Cedar Springs, after the City Council approved an ordinance last month on beekeeping. 

According to the ordinance, it will be for an experimental period of two years. “To strike a balance between those who desire to keep honeybees and the concerns raised by others regarding possible problems with allowing honeybees to be kept in the City – and to allow the City Council to assess whether honeybees should be allowed to be kept in the City on a permanent basis – the City Council finds that permitting the keeping of honeybees on an experimental two (2) year basis is the appropriate intermediate compromise solution,” reads the ordinance.

A person will need to apply for a permit from the planning commission to keep bees. Letters will be sent to all those with adjacent properties informing them of the person’s intention to keep bees. If anyone objects, that objection will be given to the planning commission along with the application.

The Planning Commission shall review the permit application in light of the following factors:

  1. The number of honeybees the applicant desires to keep;
  2. The size of the lot on which honeybees are proposed to be kept;
  3. The adequacy of the applicant’s plans for housing and confining the honeybees, specifically the intention to follow the guidelines promulgated and known as the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices for the Care of Farm Animals January 2015 – Beekeeping and Apiary Management as published by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
  4. Input received from adjacent property owners; and
  5. Other factors relevant to the applicant’s particular circumstances.

A beekeeper must follow all guidelines in the ordinance, including: Keep no more than a total of two hives on real property less than 10,890 square feet; no more than 4 hives on real property less than 21,780 square feet; no more than 6 hives on real property less than 43,560 square feet; and no more than eight hives on real property more than 43,561 square feet.

For more of the guidelines, see sections 8-73 to 8-79. Go to http://dev.cityofcedarsprings.org/ordinances/

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City Manager gets high marks in first year


 

Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack recently completed his first year on the job here in Cedar Springs, and the City Council gave him high marks. The Council completed a one-year performance review of City Manager Mike Womack at their September 7 meeting.

“The worst thing they said was they think I work too much. I was surprised that was the worst thing, but I’ll take it,” he said.

Mayor Gerald Hall was the one who voiced concern about that. “I feel Mike is doing an excellent job as our Manager,” he said. “But he might get burned out if he continues to work as he does.”

Womack has been with the City since August 1, 2016 and has hired several new staff members in that time. The team at City Hall now includes a new Finance Director, Deputy Finance Director, City Clerk, DPW Director and Utility Billing Clerk. Womack has received high praise from City Council for recruiting multiple high-quality employees and building a strong team.

“I was both unlucky and fortunate to lose so many people over my first year,” Womack said. “I was given the opportunity to bring together the team I wanted in City Hall representing the direction that Council and I envision for the City.” Womack elaborated that, “It was important to bring in friendly people with fresh ideas who want to do good things for the City.”

City Hall has invested a lot of work and time in ongoing projects in the City over the last year. Womack stated, “The City is really coming alive with economic activity,” and “I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken towards being more business friendly here in the City.”

“Some of the sign and zoning ordinances are out of date and unnecessarily restrictive, and we’ve got blighted property that we’re trying to manage,” he explained.

He plans to continue City Hall’s efforts to update and streamline City ordinances and to address the blighted properties in the City. Womack said that having a good staff and an active Council is helping propel these many plans forward.  Womack also praised local businesses and philanthropic groups for their work. “From the Halloween Spooktacular event to the new Community Library Building we are very fortunate to have so many that donate their time and money to make this such a great place to live, work and play,” Womack said.

When asked about his goals over the next year Womack talked about all the businesses coming to town. He also specified that “I’m focusing on pedestrian safety, the new fire station and bringing more life to the downtown area, especially the pocket park in front of City Hall and working with the CBDT on the Heart of Cedar Springs amphitheater.”

For their part, City Council rated Womack an average of 4.66 out of 5 and noted that overall they were very satisfied with his work, his commitment and the professional environment he brought to City Hall. Councilor Powell stated that “This small city is growing so fast.  We need his knowledge and experience in all these new projects.” Councilor Nixon appreciated his “emphasis on best practices and planning for the future.” Councilors did note that Womack could come off as somewhat distant and unfriendly due to his direct communication style, dry sense of humor and naturally straight-faced demeanor.

“What can I say, people who get to know me like me. I’ll try to smile more!” he joked.

Womack has two more years in his current contract and said he was very happy working in Cedar Springs.  “The City has been so warm and welcoming to me over the last year,” Womack said. “It’s been a nice change of pace for my life.” He said he really enjoys living in the west side of the state and likes the slower pace and smaller cities in the area. Womack came to Cedar Springs from his legal practice in Macomb County and lives in the local area with his wife Glenna and their two dogs, Fitz and Leo.

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Beekeeping ordinance sent back to Planning Commission


 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council decided last Thursday evening to send the new beekeeping ordinance back to the City Planning Commission for more research and discussion, at the suggestion of City Manager Mike Womack. The Planning Commission had previously approved the new ordinance by a 5-4 vote.

The decision was made after the first reading of the new ordinance at the City Council meeting Thursday, September 7.

“The Planning Commission discussion went off track (in my opinion) and made a 5-4 recommendation to City Council to approve with some additional language. After discussing the matter with each individual PC member it sounded like a majority didn’t feel as though they had sufficient time to research and discuss the matter,” explained Womack. “So, I gave the City Council the recommendation of the PC but also made the suggestion to send it back to the PC for further research and discussion based upon the discussions that I had with PC members. This is obviously a complicated issue and I want the City to get it right and I don’t see any reason to rush to a decision.”

Womack said he received an email from one of the PC members asking for specific information regarding the resident who asked to be allowed to keep bees, Joe Frank. While he felt they were good questions if reviewing an applicant, the ordinance is a policy issue. So Womack sent an email to Planning Commission members explaining some of the things they should be thinking about regarding the beekeeping ordinance. “The Bee-Keeping Ordinance was brought to the PC’s review for policy reasons.  The question that PC members should be asking themselves is whether the PC is a body capable of reviewing an application to keep bees, whether the proposed ordinance gives the PC enough guidance with which to make future decisions regarding an individual being able to keep bees, whether there are any spelling mistakes, errors or omissions that you think the ordinance should have but that I missed and whether you have any problems with individual aspects of the ordinance, a good example would be whether you think 2 hives is too many on any property under 8,XXX square foot and instead you think that it should be only 1 hive etc. When the City makes policy/ordinances we absolutely should not be thinking about how it will affect any single individual but rather how it will affect everybody. A typical lot in the City is 66X132=8,712 square feet, If the PC wanted to limit bee-keeping it could recommend that the minimum lot size should be 9,000 square feet before being allowed to keep any bees. We also have parcels as small as 5,000 square feet (or smaller) in the City, does the PC want to say that there is a minimum size for the lot prior to allowing bees?”

City resident Joe Frank asked the city to consider allowing beekeeping in the city earlier this summer. He has kept honeybees as a hobby for several years. He had several hives on property he owned in Hesperia, and when he decided to sell the property, he re-homed all of the hives, except one, with other beekeepers. He had previously asked a city official if he could keep a hive on his property here, and was told he could. He moved the hive to his property, but was later told that he couldn’t have it under the current ordinance. That ordinance, Sec. 8-1 Domestic Animals and Fowls reads: “No person shall keep or house any animal or domestic fowl within the city, except dogs, cats, canaries or animals commonly classified as pets which are customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets, or permit any animal or fowl to enter business places where food is sold for human consumption, except for leader, guide, hearing and service dogs as required by MCL 750.502c.”

“Bees are animals and no animals shall be kept except for the ones listed or are commonly classified as pets, which bees are not,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.

Frank said he was happy with the draft ordinance the council was considering.

“The State of Michigan has guidelines for beekeeping and the proposal is in line with the State of Michigan Agriculture guidelines, which I think is a good way to go,” he said.

A few of the other cities that allow bees in West Michigan include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland.

 

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City to consider beekeeping ordinance


By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs may soon join the ranks of other progressive cities that are helping to support the environment by allowing residents to keep bees. The City Council will consider the first reading of the ordinance at their monthly meeting this Thursday, September 7.

City resident Joe Frank asked the city to consider allowing beekeeping in the city earlier this summer. He has kept honeybees as a hobby for several years. He had several hives on property he owned in Hesperia, and when he decided to sell the property, he re-homed all of the hives, except one, with other beekeepers. He had previously asked a city official if he could keep a hive on his property here, and was told he could. He moved the hive to his property, but was later told that he couldn’t have it under the current ordinance. That ordinance, Sec. 8-1 Domestic Animals and Fowls reads: “No person shall keep or house any animal or domestic fowl within the city, except dogs, cats, canaries or animals commonly classified as pets which are customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets, or permit any animal or fowl to enter business places where food is sold for human consumption, except for leader, guide, hearing and service dogs as required by MCL 750.502c.”

“Bees are animals and no animals shall be kept except for the ones listed or are commonly classified as pets, which bees are not,” explained City Manager Mike Womack.

Womack gave the council a copy of the beekeeping ordinance in Traverse City, and a draft ordinance for the Planning Commission and City Council to consider.

This green box is Frank’s beehive, and the two white boxes are honey supers, which collect honey. Courtesy photo.

Frank’s hive is a green box inside a shed on his property. There are ports from the hive for the bees to travel through to get outside. They do not fly around inside the shed.

“They are not dangerous,” he explained. “There are already bees flying around outside. They have to live somewhere. Better in a hive than in the wall of your garage,” he noted.

At the August 10 council meeting, former Mayor Mark Fankhauser stated that he supports and recommends allowing bees in the city. He said he has seen a direct increase in the number of flowers as a result of Frank’s bees.

According to Ranger Steve Mueller, our resident wildlife and biology expert, bees are more important than butterflies as pollinators and are not dangerous. “Bees are experiencing population decline for a variety of reasons and can use human help. They are of great positive economic importance. People have an unreasonable fear of bees. Riding or driving in a car is a greater health threat than bees in the neighborhood. Why people develop unhealthy fear of bees and other insects makes little sense but many are taught unreasonable fear as a child and hold on to those fears throughout life,” he explained.

“[Bees] are a community-building, economic resource that benefits people, plants, and wildlife. I encourage people to maintain a portion of their yard for wildflowers and native species to help maintain and sustain biodiversity. Bees are an essential component if we want plants to reproduce,” he remarked.

Mueller said he has a friend that lives close to downtown Denver, Colorado and she has a small beehive in her backyard. “The bees fly about the city in nearby areas pollinating flowers, gathering nectar, and make honey. We eat at their picnic table in the backyard and are not disturbed by bees. We watch them at flowers in the garden that surround the picnic table. We sit on their deck to enjoy the day and have had not problems with the bees that are about 30 feet away. She suits up to open the hive to extract honey and uses normal bee keeping practices for safety,” he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, residents would need to apply for a permit. They could keep no more than a total of two hives on real property less than 10,890 square feet, no more than 4 hives on real property less than 21,780 square feet, no more than 6 hives on real property less than 43,560 square feet and no more than eight hives on real property more than 43,561 square feet. Honeybees must be housed in a properly designed and constructed hive, which may be located only in the “rear yard” of the property. They also cannot be any closer than 10 feet to any property line of an adjacent property.

Frank said he was happy with the draft ordinance the council is considering.

“The State of Michigan has guidelines for beekeeping and the proposal is in line with the State of Michigan Agriculture guidelines, which I think is a good way to go,” he said.

A few of the other cities that allow bees in West Michigan include Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland.

Please note that this article has been updated to refer to the specific ordinance under which bees are not currently allowed in the City of Cedar Springs. We also removed Rockford as a city that allows them. It should have read Muskegon. We apologize for the error.

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