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Ontonagon council approves zoning variance

Skip Schulz/For the Gazette Angela Yu and Melissa Davis will be holding a special Ontonagon village resident public meeting dealing with how the village and residents can save money on energy costs. That meeting will be Thursday night at the Ontonagon Theatre for Performing Arts, starting at 6 p.m.

The Ontonagon Village Council Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing on Monday night. This was due to a request from Keith Penegor to establish a campground on his River Driver property.

In a letter to the zoning board, Penegor stated, “the property is a 1.4 acre lot in the vVillage on the banks of the Ontonagon River. This property is in the flood zone, so I cannot establish a permanent livable structure on the property.”

Penegor stated that his lot is the lowest lot among the six lots.

Currently another campground is located in that area. Sitting in for Village President Ken Waldrop, who did not show up for the meeting, was President Pro Tem Tony Smydra. Smydra commented as to how the village looked at having a campground in that area on village-owned land. Smydra also spoke eloquently as to the importance of tourism to the community. He vehemently supported the zoning variance.

Immediately after the zoning board’s public hearing, the question on the zoning variance was unanimously supported by the council during the council business meeting.

Unlike meetings over the past few years that have drawn a “divide” amongst the many people attending the village council meetings, the zoning board was led by village council member John Hamm. Hamm drew no criticism or questioning during the portion of the meeting that he held “the gavel.”

After another lengthy public comment period, Village Manager Joe Erickson gave the legal responsibility of the council in deciding the fate of the legal sale, distribution and processing of marijuana in the village.

“The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has issued emergency rules for marijuana establishments,” Erickson said. “The state will begin accepting license applications in November. If municipalities that do not have an ordinance in place that prohibits or rules for the establishment of related business, the state must issue a license to a qualifying business.”

The village of Ontonagon currently has a zoning ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries as a special use in the industrial zoning districts.

“However, due to different rules for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, the issues should be addressed,” he said.

The council took no action on the issue of recreational marijuana.

Erickson passed on good news to the council and village water customers, including those along the M-64 corridor to Carp Lake Township.

“The Village Water Department has received the results of ‘Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) samples for the Lake Superior water entering the water treatment plant for treatment,” he said. “The village water tested as non-detect for all PFAS.”

Two years ago, the idea of locating a water bottling plant was brought up at an Ontonagon County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors meeting. This recent test is good news on the possibility of bringing a water bottling plant to the county.

On Thursday night, the village will partner with the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR) in hosting a public meeting. The meeting will be how the village and residents can save money on energy use and costs.

“We’re going to have pizza and prizes, so please come,” said Sarah Hopper.

“And great prizes,” said Smydra.

This will take place at 6 p.m. at the Ontonagon Theatre or the Performing Arts.

With no cost to the village taxpayers stated, the council unanimously agreed to cover all the expenses for council members to go and attend the Michigan Municipal League Convention. This opens up on Tuesday night, Sept. 24 at Comerica Park in Detroit, and runs till Thursday, Sept. 26. The convention will be at the Cobo Hall in Detroit.

Nothing was stated as to how many council members will attend and have all their expense covered.

Erickson reported that Park Benches and Park equipment has been ordered at a 15% discount. Total cost $15,670.23. The council approved to give Copperfest the same amount the event received from the village last year. No one knew what they gave last year. The money will go to radio advertising.

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