by BETH ALTENA Called “pure intimidation tactics” by Plainfield Township Manager Robert Homan, 140 residents, most angry, crowded Township’s meeting room Monday, March 15, and accused the board of a variety of violations. The meeting began at 7:30 p.m. with a public hearing and presentation by John Short on the township’s Five Year Master Plan for Parks and Recreation. Supervisor George Meek stated that comment was to be restricted to the parks and recreation plan and not on the proposed three-lane expansion of Belmont Road planned by the Kent County Road Commission. During the meeting the board was accused of a variety of illegal or unethical actions. Residents complained the board was violating the open meetings act in several different ways, they offered scathing comments on the lack of implementation of a background check policy, commented negatively about how Kent County Road Commission meetings were advertised and accused Homan of illegally using tax dollars to publish a political opinion in the township newsletter. The board attended open business from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. during which time they voted to approve the background check policy they had prepared. Meek made an announcement stating that all township employees and board members had been checked and none had any violation that would require their inclusion on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. Treasurer Jim Stover suggested making the background check policy even more inclusive. “I suggest not just employees, but any arm of the township such as the Farm Market vendors be subject,” he said. Clerk Scott Harvey said why not make all Plainfield Avenue business people subject as well. “We aren’t in charge of the Plainfield businesses, but we are in charge of the farm market,” retorted Trustee Rebecca Borek. Meek said the board would take the issue to the township attorney. The board also approved expanding the farm market from one day a week to two, Tuesdays and Thursdays; approved a dance permit for Vitale’s of Comstock Park; and issued a medical marijuana moratorium. Meek also told the board and audience that a letter of reprimand was being prepared regarding the article in the township newsletter by Homan that was possibly an improper use of public funds. At 8:45 p.m. Meek opened the meeting for comments lasting […]
On Monday, March 1, 2010, at approximately 2:30 a.m., the Kent County Sheriff Office responded to three drive-by shootings that appear to be related. The first occurred in Alpine Township on M37 near 8 Mile Road. The victim, a 39 year old male from Grant, was on his way to work traveling southbound on M37 when his vehicle was passed by a passenger car at a high rate of speed. While being passed, the victim’s car was struck by something. Not knowing what occurred, he pulled to the side of the road and discovered his car had been shot at. The round hit the driver’s side passenger door, traveled through the driver’s headrest and punctured the victim’s coat. The second and third incidents took place at the Arbys and Taco Bell on Northland Drive near Plainfield Avenue. The businesses were closed at this time but there were employees inside. No one was injured. The bullets struck the front entry door and windows of the establishments. Kent County Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the Kent County Sheriff Department Dispatch at (616) 632-6100, option 1 or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345.
The legal battle over an intensive development off Northland Drive in Plainfield Township is over. According to Trustee Vic Mathews, the developers, BDR Inc., agreed not to appeal a decision against their proposed development if the township agreed not to pursue damages incurred from the lawsuit. Matthews said the township might have had a good chance to recoup about $17,000 it spent in excess of the $100,000 in lawsuit insurance coverage the case cost. However, much of that money would have likely gone back to the insurance company and pursuing the damages would require more legal proceedings and expense. The issue has been going on for years, after BDR proposed a development on 35 acres on the north east corner of Northland Drive and Seven Mile Road. Their plan included a Family Fare grocery store, a gas station open until midnight, restaurants, office space and medical offices. The township Planning Commission recommended not approving the Planned Unit Development (PUD), in part because it was not in accordance with the township’s master plan for the property. Family Fare representatives claimed the new location for the store was desperately needed and the existing store had no room to expand, or enough parking at its Northland Drive location just south of the Grand River. They claimed they were not consulted when new buildings, including a mattress store and coffee shop, were constructed in former parking lot space. They said nearby property owners were informed of the plans prior to construction, but as tenants, Family Fare had no notice until the buildings were under construction. Because of loss of parking and lack of room to expand the store at the current location, this new site was needed to serve Family Fare customers. They claimed demographics showed that only a store north of the Grand River would allow them to compete in the township for customers. The PUD was very nearly approved by the board of trustees in a 4-3 vote despite the Planning Commission recommendation against it. Trustee Rebecca Borek asked that the board and planning commission meet to hear the commission’s reasoning, and a subsequent vote by the Board of Trustees went against the plan 4-3. An active coalition of neighbors against the development packed township meetings during […]
Plainfield Township is facing harsh criticism regarding their lack of a policy requiring background checks on potential employees (see related story page 1), and their decision not to fire a firefighter who was convicted of a sex offense, but in fact the township is not alone. Cannon Township also does not require background checks for potential employees, although Clerk Bonnie Blackledge said the township fire department does do background checks on their new hires. “In light of what happened with Plainfield Township, we probably will,” she said. Blackledge said the general background check the fire department uses would indicate if a person was on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. She said the department recently declined hiring an individual because of their driving record, which showed up during the course of the background check. Courtland Township Clerk Marilyn Crosby said that township also does not have a policy regarding background checks or employing sex offenders. She said the fire chief does background checks on potential fire department employees. “We do it for their driving record,” she said, and added that the application asks about criminal history, which would also show up on the criminal background check. Grattan Township also does not have a background check policy in place for potential employees, said Supervisor Frank Force. Again, he said the fire department does do background checks. “It’s kind of a new concept, really,” he said. “I don’t think we do regular background checks much less sex offender investigations.” However, he said his zoning assessor did do background checks on all employees several years ago. “Someone brought it to our attention that there was a sex offender living in close proximity to a school, so we checked and sure enough, he is.” The individual is not an employee or associated with the township, but the assessor, a retired police officer, checked to see if any staff was on the sex offender registry. Force said the recent publicity over a township employee on the sex offender registry has his township developing a policy. However, it will probably not be ready for consideration by the board at their next meeting. “They are still working on the concept and wording. It is still probably very preliminary.” The City of Rockford does […]
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.