Cannabis in Columbia Township

The Columbia Township Board has scheduled a public hearing regarding the potential operation of cannabis-oriented businesses within Township boundaries.  The meeting will be held at the Township hall on Monday, December 5th.

When the electorate legalized cannabis in Michigan, the Columbia Township board quickly voted to ban local businesses from dealing in it in some fashion.  Township attorney Eric White advised the board at last month’s meeting of possible future consequences.  Those who want cannabis-oriented businesses to operate in the Township could initiate a referendum to be put on the ballot.  No one could predict whether it would pass, and more importantly, how expansive such a proposal could be.  A middle ground might be to allow some cannabis business activity but restrict it not to go beyond the perceived views of the community.  Eric White recommended the Township hold a public hearing to gauge community support or opposition.

Sewer Rates and a New Building

The Township will likely vote to raise sewer bills at the November meeting.  The predicted amount for Clark Lake customers will rise to $271.41 per quarter, up from $246.96.   For Lake Columbia and SRI customers, it will be $205.41, and Vineyard Lake, $244.41.  For a deeper dive into the sewers, please click here. 

Until this summer, Columbia Township sewer work had been the responsibility of the Brooklyn DPW.  That included Clark Lake, Lake Columbia and Vineyard Lake.  In June, Brooklyn gave Columbia Township a 60 day notice that Brooklyn would no longer provide that service.  Since then, Columbia Township has contracted for that service to be provided by JK of Michigan, a company related to M & K Jetting and Televising.  The scope of service includes grinder pumps at individual residences, lift stations, and transmission lines.  Since JK is located in Jackson, the Township has searched for a physical location closer to the service areas.  The Township has purchased a building at 113 Lane Street, Brooklyn, to house activities.  At one time Brooklyn Tire occupied the site.

Google Maps photo from 2014

The Township will be purchasing 50 new grinder pumps with the cost as much as $75,000.

Charter Township Next Step

The board voted a second time its intent to establish Columbia Township as a charter township.  Here’s an excerpt from the discussion, leading up to the vote.

Trustee Mike Trout added hiring a superintendent was not a requirement for a charter township and reporting requirements for a charter township may be less than for a general law township (current status of Columbia Township).

The vote was 6 to 1, with Township Treasurer John voting no.  After the meeting he commented that he didn’t see the need for it.

According to the Michigan Township Association’s website, the charter township option was created by the Michigan legislature in 1947 to “provide additional powers and streamlined administration for governing a growing community.”  Beyond that, a “primary motivation for townships to adopt the charter form is to provide greater protection against annexation by a city.”  Interestingly, the Village of Brooklyn has annexed portions of Columbia in the past.

Converting to charter status requires a process.  That includes advertising the intent.  If enough petitions opposing the change were received, then the decision would take the form of a referendum that would be voted upon by the electorate.  Opposition, for example, could come from a municipality that wishes to annex some or all of a township.

New Jail

Sheriff Gary Schuette addressed the Columbia Township board and described plans for a new jail, presuming voters approve the tax increase.  The sheriff said the new structure would be constructed where the County already has a jail–1995 Chanter Road.  Since the Sheriff’s office is required to be located within Jackson city limits, a new Wesley Street building would replace the current structure, but it be about a quarter the size of what’s presently there. The cost of construction is $51,859,000 which includes a potential 20% overage.  This proposal goes before voters in the November election.  The Sheriff pointed out the poor condition of the current facility.

Sheriff Gary Schuette describing building plans to the Columbia Township board.

At most meetings of the Columbia Township board, Jackson County Commissioner Phil Duckham brings those present up to date on County government.  At the meeting last night, he past along an interesting statistic.  Animal Control received 593 dogs during the quarter that ended in September. The commissioner pointed to the success of the Animal Control’s program.  They find new homes for pets, and are even able to take in dogs from other states.  In some cases, owners give their dogs to the shelter to be euthanized when they are overly aggressive or terminally ill.  That number totaled 66 during the same July through September period.

Jackson County Commissioner Phil Duckham speaking at the Columbia Township board meeting.

Columbia Township clean up day is Saturday, October 22nd, from 9 am to 1 pm.  Details below: