Beth Altena

PC approves final plan for Monroe Street condos.

April 2, 2015 // 0 Comments

By BETH ALTENA Sale of contaminated half-acre of city property included Passionate, even tearful comments against approving a 51-unit condominium development were heard by Rockford Planning Commissioners on Thursday, March 26 before the board voted five to one to recommend Rockford City Council give the final go-ahead to the project. Developer Marcell Burger and two associates were present to answer questions The public comment session was almost entirely taken up by residents of the stretch of Monroe between Courtland and Lewis streets, although several non-residents spoke, both for and against the development. City attorney Dick Wendt was present, along with City Manager Michael Young, Clerk Chris Bedford and commissioners Tammy Bergstrom, Cliff Hill, Chair Jim Scales, Tom Sturr, Dave Rasmussen and Jon Minor. Young opened the meeting with a summary of the process of approving the Tamarack Run development, explaining what steps have been taken since the development plan was submitted to the city in October of 2014. He outlined the public meetings held since, including a two-and-a-half hour City Council meeting on February 9. Many of the same people who spoke at previous Council and Planning Commission meetings spoke at the Thursday meeting, voicing mostly the same objections to the development. New to the discussion was an explanation of steps necessary to sell to the developer a parcel of property belonging to the City within the boundaries of the development. Young said a piece of land approximately 212 feet by 100 feet was identified as city land, although it has been used as part of the former inhabitant Burch Body Works for over 100 years. The parcel, just under a half-acre, has been identified as including one of several contaminated areas on the entire seven-acre plat. As part of the development all contaminated lands will be removed and disposed of in an appropriate landfill at the developer’s expense. The Tamarack Run condominiums will occupy about half of the seven acres with wetlands on the other half being preserved. Burger spoke before the public comment session began and told commissioners that more room for snow removal had been added to the project by adding more space between homes. He said more parking had been added in response to residents’ concerns about parking on Monroe Street […]

EXPO says, ‘You are going to Mexico. For free.’ And you will win $500 in cash

March 18, 2015 // 0 Comments

By BETH ALTENA   The EXPO doesn’t lie. It just doesn’t know who it is talking to. According to Rockford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Southwick, it is guaranteed, for sure, absolutely going to happen that one lucky person will win an all-expenses paid two person trip to Mexico paid for by the Chamber from Antor Travel and Apple Vacations. Plus, four people will win $500 in cash. Plus, if you aren’t one of those fortunate five, you are guaranteed not to leave empty-handed. Hundreds of booths will be staffed by many hundreds of friendly people who work and live right here in West Michigan, all happy to offer some sort of goodie—a tree seedling, candy, pen, awesome drawings, such as free trips, free services, games with prizes, samples and of course, once again A Taste of Rockford with Flo’s, Uccello’s and Candlestone Inn offering delicious tastes from their kitchens for tickets which sell for a dollar each. The eleventh annual Rockford Community EXPO is slated for Saturday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Rockford High School. Amazing, you think. What does it cost to get into this wonderous event? It’s free. The best thing about the annual EXPO, besides all the great people to see and things to do, is that each EXPO is different and you never know what might be happening. Absolutely you will see Rockford’s fine public safety officers and there are always other local law enforcement members with stickers for the kids and a talking, lively mascot. At the first one a pair of local businessmen teamed up to try to beat the Guinness Book of World Records by grilling the largest every burger. Entertainment is all day and top quality. Local celebrities MC the event from beginning to end. This year’s line-up is Andy Rent, Chuck LaTour, Michelle DeSelms and Juliet Dragos. Rockford students will perform for you from the stage in the gymnasium, ending with the Rockford High School Jazz Band. This year again there will be a dozen and one selling booths, where visitors can buy products, goods or services, including the Rockford Lions taking orders for hams. The wide range of service and product providers will highlight what a talented and diverse […]

Wild west captured in deer farm turned agri-tourism resort

October 4, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA When you have over 200 beautiful white tailed deer fenced adjacent to a major road, people will stop and want to see them. That’s the experience of the Powell family, who opened their working deer farm in 2003. Located at 7850 14 Mile Road (M-57), their 80-acre business has received a lot of attention from passersby. They tried to accommodate curious visitors to the best of their ability, but the farm wasn’t really set up for tours. Now it is. Deer Tracks Junction is now open for business as a family destination with hands-on live animal interaction, a stage coach ride through the pens of hundreds of live and spectacular deer, a chance for kids to touch a real reindeer or baby yak, a play train with cars for climbing, crawling and exploring a three-level maze car, plus an indoor facility featuring spectacular mounts of caribou, Musk ox, wolves and an auditorium for live education shows featuring actors in costume. “Once you buy your ticket, you can just enjoy the day here,” said owner Kelly Powell, who operates Deer Tracks Junction with his wife Hilary and 16-year-old son Tyler. At just $10 a ticket, from the play train, the Stage Coach Ride, live shows, and life sized animal mounts to the different old-fashioned, Wild West stations within the Deer Tracks Junction building, the price is a great buy. He said he wants his working deer farm shows and tours to be affordable for families and believes visitors will support his vision. Other business people in the area believe the farm will add to the reasons people come to the area. The family made the decision to expand into what is called Agricultural tourism because it made sense to them on many levels. They hope to bring something unique, exciting and valuable to the area as a legacy and as a living. “It’s hard in Michigan right now,” said Powell. “I don’t want my son to have to leave the state to find a job.” Deer Tracks not only will be the future livelihood for Tyler, but offered the family the chance to hire others who help in the business. The work is seasonal, but at a recent job fair at the ranch […]

Firefighters take on explosive situation in propane training

September 20, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘Catastrophic’ situations covered by BETH ALTENA Rockford Fire Marshal Mike Reus said he would guess a recent explosion that blew a trailer home apart likely involved a propane fire and that cases where even stick-built homes are literally destroyed in an explosion are also likely caused by a propane leak that becomes ignited. Area firefighters were trained on handling what the Michigan Propane Gas Association (MPGA) called ‘catastrophic situations’ on Thursday, August 30 at the Cedar Spring Fire Department. The event included increasingly difficult propane fires with flames shooting more than 60 feet into the air. During the training a nearby tree was accidently ignited and had to be hosed down. Reus said understanding the nature of propane is an important skill for firefighters and the “big, big” thing about propane is that it is heavier than air and will sink and pool rather than rise and disperse. The potential explosion from such a leak can indeed be considered catastrophic. “If you see a house just blown clear off the foundation, it is probably propane,” Reus said. He noted that in the case of the Squire office, a propane leak would doubtless go to the lower level of the building, where most homes have furnaces and other mechanicals located. Reus said in the case of a home closed off for the winter, even a minute leak over time would result in a catastrophic explosion. He noted that even the flicking on of a lightswitch—for instance in the middle of the night when a person gets up to use the bathroom—would be enough to ignite an explosion. “Even turning on a light results in a small electric spark that people never see,” he described. Reus said propane is a mixture of chemicals that is, in part, a byproduct of the processing of gasoline. LPG stands for Liquid Petroleum Gas and he said in its earliest uses the compound was used as a burning source for heat. He explained that propane here in the United States may differ from the mixture used in other countries, making the handling and use of the gas a tricky matter. During the controlled propane fires, teams of first responders practiced techniques to subdue flaming tanks with extremely hot fires. The techniques […]

Local businessman wants to feed the town of Rockford for free

September 20, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA In a way, buying their own restaurant was like an anniversary present for Debbie and Douglas Ryke. The couple celebrated their fifteenth anniversary the day after they opened the doors of Fatzo’s Pizza. In a way, it was like a whole new marriage. “The restaurant is our life now,” said Debbie of the couple’s eatery, which is located in the same spot that was formerly J.D.’s Pizza, and prior to that Peppino’s. Debbie said her husband, the “Fatzo” of the restaurant’s name, has been putting in 90 hour weeks to ensure his dream is off to a good start. She also noted that she might go on a diet because she doesn’t like the idea of becoming known as “Mrs. Fatzo.” Debbie said Douglas always wanted to have a restaurant of his own, and after working in the industry for more than 30 years, opening and running well-known Italian restaurants in West Michigan, he finally decided now was the time. One week to the day after the Friday, September 7 opening, Debbie said business has been terrific, people have been enthusiastic, and food has been “flying” out the door. Douglas said he always believes food is best when it is all made by hand and his is—with the exception of the ravioli—and all with authentic Italian recipes. The restaurant features pizzas, including the famous Chicago-style with two layers of dough, cheese and fresh toppings covered with a hand-rolled crust and sauce, and also other Italian favorites—lasagna, mostaccoli, oven-baked subs, breadsticks, salads and a wet burrito which has already become one of the hottest-selling menu items. The menu features more than 45 items. Douglas said the couple worked hard to prepare for the rebirth of the restaurant as Fatzo’s, where customers can dine in, order delivery or pick up to-go orders. The staff so far is three—the Rykes, and literally the best man they could find for the job, Tom Remington. In addition to offering the same extensive restaurant experience as Douglas, Remington was the couple’s best man at their wedding. “It was fun last Saturday,” said Debbie. “We were all here working and we were joking with each other, saying, ‘I know where you were 15 years ago.’ “ Douglas has an […]

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