Judge to rule on zoning for grocery store and complex A judge will decide if he thinks a developer was unconstitutionally denied use of property in Plainfield Township. Final arguments were heard it the downtown Grand Rapids courtroom of Dennis Leiber. Developer BDR proposed a grocery store, gas station, medical facility, office and restaurant plan at property at Northland Drive and Seven Mile Road. The 30-acre parcel is labeled residential in the township’s Master Plan. On Monday, November 9, attorneys for the township and developers made their final summation in the case. Jennifer Decker, for BDR, ask the court to issue an injunction against the township for preventing her clients from developing the property as they see fit. She argued that there was no other reasonable use for the land and her clients were being denied their constitutional right. She stated that the property was unsuited to residential development because of its proximity to a gravel mining operation, Northland Drive, power lines, a Consumers Energy substation and an M-Dot parking lot. She also stated the cost of development for residential would be exorbitant. She also said there is no market for other uses allowed under the zoning, such as schools, nursing homes or churches. In addition to the complaint against the township for allowing the development, she asked the judge to award her client over $2.3 million for the money lost while trying to get the property rezoned. The township’s attorney, Jim Nelson, said, “The bottom line is the plaintiff’s complaint that this property is only worth $430,000.” He said to most people, a 30-acre property valued at $430,000 would be considered pretty good. “BDR comes into this with the attitude that ‘I can convert a Volkswagon into a Cadillac,’” he said. He defended the township against claims that the zoning was arbitrary and capricious. He stated the zoning was not decided by “a couple of people in a back room,” but is long-standing and has been given much thought. He said the “fatal flaw” in the developer’s case was to have purchased the property knowing it is residential. After hearing the one-hour presentations by both attorney, Judge Leiber thanked them and said he would take the issue under his consideration.
November 11 2009
The West Michigan Sports Commission will have two years to come up with the cash to purchase 90 acres for a proposed ball field complex if the Kent County Board of Commission (KCBC) approves the deal. The KCBC will vote on the plan, which a finance committee proposed, at their next meeting. The Sports Commission would pay the county’s Department of Public Works $1 for a two year option to purchase the land for $400,000. According to Mike Gusweiller, director of the Sports Commission, it will cost another $5 million to develop the property into a 12-ball field facility. Gusweiller said this would be an unusual situation for the Sports Commission. Never before has the organization been the purchasing agent in such a deal. “It’s not typical. Usually we find a municipality that is interested. The complexes don’t necessarily make a profit. The true dollars are in the economic impact of visitors coming into the area,” Gusweiller said. The Sports Commission estimate that in the first ten years, having the facility would generate $50 million in hotel revenue alone. Gusweiller said in this instance no municipality stepped forward interested in purchasing the land. The property is adjacent to the former land fill south of Ten Mile Road and east of US-131. Potential donors to the project are invited to call Gusweiller at (616) 233-3561.
On Monday, November 9, an arrest warrant was issued for 40-year-old Jeffrey Shawn Hawkins, of Plainfield Township. Hawkins was arrested and lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility. He was charged with two counts of Accosting Children for Immoral Purposes—each count is a four-year felony; two counts of Using Computers to Commit a Crime – each count is a seven-year felony. Hawkins was also charged as a Habitual Offender/Second Offense Notice. The Kent County Sheriff Department began investigating a complaint of Soliciting a Child for Immoral Purposes. The solicitation occurred online while the individuals conversed via Facebook. Investigators do not believe the suspect ever had any physical contact with these 15-year-old children. The suspect is a 40-year-old male that currently lives in Plainfield Township and he is required by law to register as a Sex Offender. He is a paid on-call firefighter for Plainfield Township as well as a Plainfield Township employee. He has been with the fire department since 1993. As part of his firefighter duties, he did attend the Fall Festival at the East Oakview Elementary School on October 23, 2009 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with other Plainfield firefighters. School officials have been notified of the investigation. At this time he has been suspended from the fire department. The Sheriff Department had utilized a search warrant at the suspect’s residence to seize his computer. In addition, Plainfield Township and the Plainfield Township Fire Department have been cooperative with the investigation. They have turned over computers to the Sheriff Department to ensure no illegal activities occurred while using their property. Bob Homan, Plainfield Township Manager, said Hawkins has been suspended until further notice without pay. “At this time I believe it is best to let the legal process take place,” he commented Monday. He said Hawkins has been a paid-on-call firefighter for the township since 1993. He was appointed by then clerk Sue Morrow as Assistant Clerk in 2001. Hawkins was convicted of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree with a victim between the ages of 13 to 16 on June 3, 1997 in 17th Circuit Court. According to Homan, the township currently has no policy regarding individuals on the Sex Offender Registry in regards to employment with the township.
Members of the Plainfield Township Fire Department were recognized for their years of service on Monday, October 5 during the township’s regular board meeting. Recognition began with firefighters with 25 years serving their community followed by 15-year awards. The board members expressed gratitude to the department and all the services provided to the public by the firefighters. Firefighters must take 400 to 500 hours of training before they are qualified for the position.
The second-graders in Mrs. Sanders’ and Mrs. Schroder’s Crestwood Elementary classes will have special light diffusers coming to their classrooms very soon. A student grant was awarded to this second-grade class by the Rockford Education Foundation (REF) last week. These students requested light lenses for the fluorescent light fixtures in their classroom. The students put in their own words their needs for these light diffusers or, as they called them, “skylights.” These diffusers have a photo printed on them, giving the effect of looking up to the trees or clouds. This request so moved the REF that a surprise presentation of the grant approval was recently held in the students’ classroom. In addition to the student grant, the REF awarded 69 grant requests from community members, teachers and staff of Rockford Public Schools, Our Lady of Consolation, Assumption BVM, and Rockford Christian School for a total distribution of $35,035.93. In addition, an annual $1,000 grant was awarded to Rockford Seniors Unlimited. The REF gives out “mini” grants—those totaling less than $400—and “large” grants—those totaling between $401 and $3000. A few of the mini grants approved this year included “Snap” circuits to build electrical and electronic circuits, art history teaching DVDs, GPS receivers for geocaching classes, as well as various teaching programs for reading, math and music classes. The large grants funded this year included materials to support and enhance phonemic awareness for resource room students, and a program to provide fourth-graders the opportunity to raise Chinook Salmon eggs to be released into the Grand River. Also awarded were online math resources, a music file storage system for the Rockford Area Arts Commission, trees for a botanical park at North Rockford Middle School, as well as headphones and light diffusers for students with sensory and movement challenges. The REF will again award grants in January. The deadline for grant applications is January 13, 2010. Applications can be found on the REF website at www.rockfordschools.org/ref. You can also find the REF on Facebook.