2018-02-01 / News

Merchberger Takes Over for Koster as Clark Township Planning Commission Chair

By Erich T. Doerr


The Clark Township Planning Commission voted to elect its Vice Chair Mark Merchberger (right) to move up and take over the chair position from Brad Koster at its Tuesday, December 12, meeting. Mr. Koster recommended Mr. Merchberger for the position based on his years of experience with the commission. Here Mr. Koster hands Mr. Merchberger a key to the Clark Township Hall at the end of the meeting. The Clark Township Planning Commission voted to elect its Vice Chair Mark Merchberger (right) to move up and take over the chair position from Brad Koster at its Tuesday, December 12, meeting. Mr. Koster recommended Mr. Merchberger for the position based on his years of experience with the commission. Here Mr. Koster hands Mr. Merchberger a key to the Clark Township Hall at the end of the meeting. The Clark Township Planning Commission elected its new 2018 leadership at its last meeting of 2017 Tuesday, December 12, with Mark Merchberger approved to take over the role of chair from Brad Koster. The meeting included a public hearing on its ordinance changes and approval of permits for a pair of boathouses.

LeRoy Pieri was elected vice chair. Dawn Wilcox will continue as secretary. Each of the votes was unanimous.

Mr. Merchberger has been on the commission for six years. This will be his first time as its chair.


Clark Township Supervisor Mark Clymer presents a legislative tribute from the State of Michigan to Chief Administrative Officer Jack Otstot of the Clark Township Volunteer Fire Department Wednesday, December 20. The tribute thanks the department for its service to protect the area. Clark Township Supervisor Mark Clymer presents a legislative tribute from the State of Michigan to Chief Administrative Officer Jack Otstot of the Clark Township Volunteer Fire Department Wednesday, December 20. The tribute thanks the department for its service to protect the area. “This is another way to serve the community,” Mr. Merchberger said. “I am happy to do that.”

Mr. Koster enjoyed serving as the commission chair, but said it is important for others to fill the role, too. He had served more than four years in the position. He wants the commission to continue to work on the ordinances and keep property owners able to use their property to its “highest and best use.”

Mr. Koster will take on a role as a secondary vice chair, filling in as the vice chair if Mr. Pieri is absent.

Mobile Vending Ordinance

A public hearing considered the township’s new mobile vending ordinance, covering businesses such as food trucks, and its amendments to existing ordinances governing the Hessel Shore Strip District and boathouse specifications. Mr. Koster pointed out that the township had already posted drafts of the ordinances in the newspaper, but it received no written comments about them afterward.

All three policies were approved at the conclusion of the public hearing. The township board of trustees later reviewed and approved the ordinances at its Wednesday, December 20, meeting. The completed ordinances will go into effect 15 days after they are published in a local newspaper.

Commissioner Sarah Patton said the process of getting a vending permit under the new short-term vendor ordinance would likely be similar to that for acquiring a special event permit now. The possible impacts this policy could have on special events were mentioned during the meeting. A system will likely be put in place for larger events in the area, such as Hessel’s Les Cheneaux Antique Wooden Boat Show, to be able to file for one permit and have it cover all of their vendors, while some of the smallest event vendors may not need them. Ms. Patton mentioned as an example that a stand set up by children for selling hot dogs during a fishing tournament or similar small gathering likely would not require a permit. The new regulations will be incorporated into the township’s larger zoning ordinance. Mr. Koster said the commission will need to come back later and tighten up the application form and the fees related to both the township’s short term and long term vendor policies.

The changes to both the Hessel Shore Strip District and the boathouse policy were minor and related more to the wording of the ordinances than their policies.

A Hessel resident asked during the public hearing about parking in the Shore Strip District, citing it as a problem because of limited availability, while many boaters desire parking close to the marinas. The resident asked if the marinas had requirements for minimum parking, and Mr. Koster replied that they do, and any marina that adds slips must add additional parking for them, but there are no township requirements regarding their current slips.

Docks that include more than 14 slips are classified as a commercial marina and once they are, said Commissioner Bob Dunn, they need to follow state regulations for them, including parking requirements of at least one space per dock. Mr. Dunn added the township is looking at its options for increasing parking facilities in both Cedarville and Hessel, as the concern is a common one. Mr. Koster noted that while many want more waterfront parking, especially island residents, finding properties along the waterfront to use for that purpose is difficult.

Boathouse Approvals

The planning commission approved a pair of special land use permits for Jim Smith and Nan Richter during the meeting that they will use for constructing boathouses, giving both their unanimous approval. The township reviewed Mr. Smith’s proposal for a 24-foot by 42-foot structure with a flat membrane roof at 1286 Lakeside Road. The structure will be 14 feet tall. The commission reviewed the plans for the structure, including both the proposed boat shelter and its accompanying dock. The shelter will not have enclosed sides.

The proposed boathouse drew some concern from neighboring residents, including one who wrote to the commission he believed the structure would stick out too far into the lake. Another resident spoke at the meeting to state a similar concern that the structure could block waterfront views and lower the value of neighboring properties. The township confirmed the structure would be allowed since it meets the communities’ standards and Mr. Smith had the proper permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental

Quality and United States Army Corps of Engineers to build it. These are the two organizations that govern out into the lake, in place of the township. Township Zoning Administrator Ken Waybrant said Mr. Smith cleared the size of his boathouse with the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the structure now conforms to the restrictions laid out in the new boathouse ordinance.

Mr. Smith attended the meeting and said the supports and the sides for the new structure have gone up. He still needs to build the roof. He said his building would be better described as a boat structure, instead of a boathouse, because of its minimal design. He changed the design from a pointed roof to a flat one because he said snow is not much of an issue right on the water and he wanted to lower the height of his structure. He confirmed the roof would not feature any sort of sundeck or other usable space.

Mr. Dunn said he believes the structure will blend in well with others right down on the water. He also noted that an owner’s property rights on the lakeshore go perpendicular to the shoreline; an owner has a right to the view of the water straight out from their home, but they do not have the right to the view off other neighboring properties to the point where they could prevent an owner from using their property. It was noted during the meeting another neighboring property has a similar dock that sticks out into the lake.

The second approval for Mr. Richter is for a one-story boathouse on the north side of his property on Island No. 8 at 1496 South Forest Lane. The structure will replace a flotation dock that was already located there. He also already had permits from the DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers before requesting the land use permit from the township.

The township reviewed the plans for the structure. The boathouse is planned to be 44 feet by 40 feet and 14 feet tall. Mr. Richter said the construction of the boathouse would tie in with investments he is making to improve his property.

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