A group of residents of Grass Lake have banded together against a proposed gravel pit along Norvell Rd. The Friends of Grass Lake Township, a non-profit group opposed to the proposed mine was formed to bring attention to the proposed mining operations.
L&L Development LTD has submitted an application for a Special Land Use to the Grass Lake Charter Township for the Removal and processing of topsoil, stone, rock, sand, gravel, lime or other soil and mineral resources. L&L Development LTD is a separate company from Lester Brothers, however “some of the owners share interests in both companies” according to Bill Lester.
The Grass Lake Times sat down this week with Bill, Cody and Billy Lester along with their attorney Geoff Snyder and separately Rick Murphy, President of Friends of Grass Lake Township to discuss the proposed mining operations.
One common ground for both of them was how unique this experience has been. Rick Murphy said he had “never been involved in anything like this before” and Bill Lester indicated “it is so blown out of proportion”.
L&L has previously developed 3 subdivisions in Grass Lake; Wolf Lake Highlands on Wolf Lake Rd, Sand Hill Estates and Sandy Ridge subdivision and condominiums, along Mt. Hope. According to Bill Lester, this whole project began as a subdivision plan. “We took our initial plans to the Township, and their review said to move that much dirt, we would need a mining permit.” After some test boring at the site, L&L determined that “the gravel here was unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. The rock content and the quality of the sand make it ideal.”
According to Bill Lester, L&L Development would mine the gravel and sand for up to the next 10 years. “The Township can limit us in how long the operations can continue” he said. The property is about 1 mile south of Warrior Trail along Norvell Rd. Lester said “the property is approximately 80 acres total and we are looking at only up to 20 acres of mining activity. There are areas of wetlands and natural gas pipeline that will not be touched.” After the 10 years, they would develop a high end subdivision that would be centered around a 10-12 acre lake. “We are looking at lots that cost $100k and homes in the $700k range.”
Opponents are skeptical of the subdivision and fear there is nothing that prevents the Planning Commission from extending their mining operations past the original 10 years later down the road. Rick Murphy feels they (L&L) “are using the subdivision to meet the requirements of being compatible with local zoning ordinances and the Grass Lake Charter Township Master Plan.” Murphy, who moved to Grass Lake to escape the noise associated with a local mine “could not believe that any parcel with 10 acres zoned R1/Agriculture could be used for mining purposes.”
Murphy was clear that the Friends of Grass Lake (FOGLT) were opposed to the mine, regardless of who was proposing it. “This is in no way a vendetta against the Lester Brothers, or L&L Development. We would be doing the same thing regardless of who the company is”. “They have a right to propose it and we have a right to oppose it”.
FOGLT plans on focusing on two primary areas for why the mining operations should be denied.
1) Property Values-According to Murphy, they have studies which show time and time again that property values drop 30-35% after a mining operation goes in. One of the studies was for Chelsea, when they were fighting the mine there and that is just 10 miles down the road. That “significantly affects the tax base for the township”
2) The Grass Lake Zoning Ordinance for Special Land Uses doesn’t allow mining operations in this area because of the stated: Be harmonious with and in accordance with the Purposes of this Ordinance and be designed, constructed, operated, maintained and managed so as to be harmonious and appropriate in appearance with existing or intended character of the general vicinity. The complete Zoning Ordinance is located at www.grasslakect.com
Geoff Snyder, L&L Development’s lawyer indicated that state law “doesn’t afford the Planning Commission the ability to deny the permit, only to regulate it.”
Another topic of discussion is about Grass Lake High School being located just over a mile from the proposed site. Murphy said that “concerned with safety with the high school. The property is completely in a no passing zone. You know how slow these trucks move, what’s going to happen when they pull out moving slow and somebody tops the hill?” When he contacted the Jackson County Road Commission, it took numerous attempts, “calling every day” before someone finally spoke with him. They said they would not do any studies or adjustments to Norvell Rd until it has been finalized”. He added, “Unfortunately safety is not one of the mandates in the state law for denial of a mine”.
Two years ago, the Jackson County Road Commission announced plans for completely rebuilding Norvell Rd in 2018 and 2019. That project is unrelated to the L&L Development plans.
Lester said they are willing to work with the Planning Commission to minimize impact to the high school traffic. “We will allow the trucks to enter the pits prior to school and not allow them out until after school starts. All of this can be regulated by the Planning Commission.” Lester estimates “the truck traffic would average 4 (trucks) a day throughout the year. Summer months would be higher, during construction season, while winter months would be lower and possibly non-existent. The trucks would be taking the aggregate directly to the job sites. I think it will decrease the truck traffic in downtown, not increase it.”
Murphy said the opposition has “only had 4 weeks to get organized, L&L has had 4 months.” “This is going to affect the Town for a long time. I moved here to get away from gravel pits. I don’t like seeing this happen.”
Opponents and Friends of Grass Lake Township have placed “Stop the Mine” throughout the community. They are meeting Sundays at Dale Fisher’s Gallery, 1916 Norvell Rd. The next meeting of FOGLT is this Sunday, October 8th at 3:00 pm. The Planning Commission Meeting is Thursday, October 12th at 7:00 pm at the Grass Lake Charter Township Hall, 373 Lakeside Dr. They are planning a mass mailing to every household in Grass Lake making people aware of the mine and its hazards on Friday, October 6th. “Its amazing how many people don’t know what is going on” said Murphy.
Opponents also fear that by issuing the Special Land Use will “open the floodgates” to other companies for mining within Grass Lake. “They will be lining up at the door to start mining” Murphy stated.
The FOGLT have hired The Law Offices of Conlin, McKenney & Philbrick of Ann Arbor to represent the group’s interests and fight the mine.
Social Media has been full of comments for and against the mining. Many reference the Bohn Rd and Clear Lake mining operations as examples of what could happen. Cody Lester responded that “you are comparing apples and oranges with Bohn Rd and Clear Lake, neither of which we operate. Clear Lake is huge, over 100 acres easily.”
Bill Lester wrapped up by saying “If I thought it was going to be as dangerous and unsafe as people are saying, we would not proceed. We are a family business and want to stay a family business, we are not interested in becoming an aggregate company.”
The Planning Commission is appointed by the Grass Lake Charter Township Board. By law, one trustee from the Township Board must be appointed to the Planning Commission. The decision of the Planning Commission in regards to Special Land Use applications is final, it does not go to the Grass Lake Charter Township Board for vote.
The initial application was presented to the public and the planning commission in May, then tabled until more information could be obtained. The Public Hearing was reopened at the September Planning Commission Meeting, then tabled for additional information until the October 12th meeting.
Editor’s Note: Scott Bray is an elected Trustee to the Grass Lake Township Board. He has no vote in this matter.
Fishville—D.O. Curtis and wife spent Sunday with Chas. Lemm and family of Grass Lake. W.C. Curtis, wife and daughters, and Roy Curtis and wife spent Sunday with Lewis Myers and family of Horton.
Southeast Grass Lake—Mrs. Cora Johnson and children left for their home Wednesday at Ft. Ogden, Fla., after a visit of several weeks with B. Coppernoll and wife, the former’s parents.
West Napoleon—Leland Andrews has enlisted as clerk in the aviation corps, and passed the preliminary examination at Detroit. He left Saturday night and will go to Columbus to take further examinations.
North Leoni—The ice cream social held for the Sunday school at the Grange Hall last Tuesday night, was the largely attended, and another will be held Tuesday night for the Band boys.
S.J. Swadling, who is selling and installing Marshall furnaces has a carload ready for delivery in the next few weeks. If you are thinking of putting in a furnace this fall see him soon.
In the ball game Saturday between Grass Lake and the Jackson Independents at Hague Park, the score was 4 to 7 in favor of Jackson.
Mr. Teufal has installed a larger gasoline tank at his service station on the corner, so that he can give his patrons better service.
Verne Seager, who has been confined to his home with severe illness is fully recovered and is at his barber shop as usual this week.
The Bell Telephone Co. are stringing three pair of wires through Grass Lake this week, and will connect with the cantonment at Battle Creek.
Considerable comment has been made in regard to oat fields at the Village Farms and the editor in an interview with the manager of these farms makes the following statements: These oats are called the Mammoth Cluster oats and the seed was grown in New York. They have a very large and peculiar shaped head, all the kernels hang in a compact head very different from ordinary oats, the kernel is plump and the hull thin, the straw is strong and stands up well. In addition to these fields twenty acres were planted at the Berkshire hog farm with remarkable results. This lighter land seeded with the ordinary run of seed would have made a very poor showing. These oats produced very well, every head and straw showed the desirable characteristics of the variety. While the manager of these farms would not make any statement as to the production per acre he feels sure of a very satisfactory crop and believes the average per acre of the county could be greatly increased with the right kind of seed. As the farmers here have the opportunity of seeing these oats growing and harvested there should be no question in regard to the production.
Linda Lockwood Hutchinson
The Copper Nail
I love going to the orchard, but I always buy too many apples. Please see if people will share their best Apple recipes.
Dave from Tecumseh
Barbara from Quincy got her recipe for Pumpkin Bread from a neighbor 50 years ago. She adapted the recipe by adding a crunch topping. Cheryl from Marlette says the one of the best things about autumn is making her Autumn Pumpkin Bread. Mary from Lake Odessa sent in her recipe for Pumpkin Muffins. They are great for a quick snack.
3 c sugar
2/3 c shortening
4 beaten eggs1/2 t salt
1 3/4 c canned pumpkin2/3 c water
3 1/2 c flour1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t ground cloves1 t cinnamon
2 t baking soda
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c brown sugar1/2 c chopped walnuts
DIRECTIONS: Bread – Cream together sugar and shortening. Add and beat in eggs, salt, pumpkin and water. Mix together flour, baking powder, ground cloves, cinnamon and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in walnuts. Divide dough and place in two greased bread pans. For topping – Mix together brown sugar and walnuts. Sprinkle in the middle of the top of the two loaves. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes.
3 c flour2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder1 t cinnamon
1 t cloves1 t salt
1/2 c butter1 c white sugar
1 1/2 c brown sugar4 eggs
2 c cooked pumpkin1/2 c water
1/2 c chopped walnuts1/2 c raisins
DIRECTIONS: Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt into a bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and pumpkin. Alternately add flour mixture and water. Beat until smooth. Stir in walnuts and raisins. Spoon batter into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
2 c packaged biscuit mix
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c canned pumpkin
2 T cooking oil
3/4 c milk
DIRECTIONS: In a bowl, thoroughly combine biscuit mix, sugar and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, egg and cooking oil. Stir into dry ingredients until blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured muffin cups (or use papers). Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 1 dozen muffins. Note from Lynn: Biscuit mix can be purchased at most grocery stores.
Please stop by my blog, Food, Fun and More for a visit at www.lseckerle.wordpress.com. Send recipes and requests to The Recipe Exchange at email@example.com.
JV Warriors Go 6-0
Friday night, the Grass Lake football team hit full stride. Using a well balanced offensive game plan, the Warriors racked up an impressive 39 points against a strong team from Hanover Horton. Grass Lake racked up 355 yards total offense, passing for 231 yards and rushed for 176 yards.
Senior running back Cody Nickerson lead the ground attack for the boys in blue. Cody racked up 108 yards on 17 attempts, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. This was by far the best rushing performance by a Warrior yet this year. Junior quarterback Sean Hickey went an impressive 17 completions on 26 attempts. He connected with six different receivers on the night, Haden Cockream had four catches for 85 yards. The youngsters of the running back group had a great finding the end zone 4 times. Freshman Trenton Holdon and sophomore Cam Darrow both had two scores each.
On Defense Dalton Diuble and Cam Darrow combined for 25 tackles. Both Scott Crutchfield and Cole Hamlin found the Hanover QB in the backfield for a total of 4 sacks. Making his first varsity start freshman corner back Winston Higgins had an electrifying interception that sparked the Warrior’s on the a strong victory. Grass Lake will be on the road Friday night traveling to Addison to take on the panthers, kickoff for the game will at 7:00PM.
On a side note, the junior varsity football program is rolling strong this season with a 6-0 record. The varsity has already pulled five of the best players to help fill some weak spots in the roster. Sophomore quarterback Trae Ruggles has been leading the team with a passing attack that is second to none. The team has been out scoring other teams on an average of 40-6. The JV team will be playing it’s last home game Thursday night at home with kickoff at 6:30.
Until Next time…
David Trent has a love of politics. Given Raymond’s passion for politics, it is probably a good thing that I drew the assignment of interviewing the new Village Manager as the 7:00 Village Council meeting may have never happened.
David Trent was selected by the Village Council as the New Village manager after several months long process of creating a job description, interviewing and selecting a candidate. He officially started on the job on September 18th.
Trent brings with him 12 years of municipal government experience and over 30 years of management experience. His interest in politics started early, running for an open school board position in Plymouth at the age of 19. “It was a great learning experience” he said, and “helped me get involved in the community and the JC’s. The JC’s is a leadership training and civic organization whose areas of emphasis are business development, management skills, individual training, community service, and international connections.
Trent, a passionate golfer who denies having a reportable handicap, is from Salem Township where “I have had the honor of serving on the township board. Last fall I was elected to a second term as trustee and previously served as the clerk for two terms.
I have been married to my college sweetheart, Cindy, for 41 years and we have three adult children: Amanda, Michael, and Joshua. Just this past year we became grandparents of an adorable granddaughter, Maci Rae, who is 7 months old.
I attended Schoolcraft College earning an Associates of Arts degree and finished up my undergraduate studies at Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelors of Business Administration degree.”
Trent most recently served as the Village Manager for the Village of Ortonville. He was dismissed from that position by a recently elected Village Council that was strongly opposed to discussions of implementing a sewer system, despite strong support from the business community and the schools. “The perception, and perception is all that really matters, was that I was spending all my time researching sewers despite a strong vote against it recently. I was trying to research whether people were opposed to the sewers or the cost of the sewers and how we could mitigate the costs associated with them. Businesses and schools were spending $100 thousands of dollars maintaining septic fields. There could be no new growth, no new restaurants without a sewer system according to the DEQ.” The vote was 4-3.
For the Village of Grass Lake, one of his highest priorities is to get the new budget together and create a long term, capital improvement plan. “So we can get the equipment we need, when we need it, within our limited tax base.”
Tom Nolte is still working with him during this transition period. “It was great of the Village Council to make that institutional knowledge available.”
I look forward to meeting citizens and business owners over the next few months to hear their concerns and ideas on how we can continually improve our level of services. I have already been impressed by the volunteer spirit and love of the community demonstrated by the folks I met during the Heritage Day festivities earlier in the month.
Come meet and speak with the new Village Manager during a Meet & Greet on October 10, 2017 at The Village Offices from 5pm-7pm.
Over 113 years after its inaugural trip along the streets of Grass Lake, Interurban Car 29 made its last trip Saturday, September 30th, along Michigan Ave to its final stop, The Lost Railway Museum.
While the trip from the Village of Grass Lake DPW barn was short and quick, the journey of Car 29 is anything but that. Car 29 was built in 1913 by the St. Louis Car Company and began service in 1914 by the Michigan United Traction Co. This new all metal car was designed to run along the high speed interurban railway. Unlike its wooden counterparts, it was designed to carry both people and freight. It could carry up to 84 passengers. The car ran on electricity from overhead lines and typically ran at speeds of 60 mph. The original car was Pullman Green in color, however it was later changed to orange and green to make it more visible.
The interurban railroad was a valuable infrastructure. Most roads and town streets were unpaved, and transportation was by horse-drawn carriages and carts. The interurban provided vital transportation links between the city and countryside. In 1915, 15,500 miles of interurban railways were operating in the United States. The automobile was the ultimate demise of the interurban railroad. Car 29 was taken out of service in 1929.
The history of Car 29 after it left service is fuzzier. Ed Greca, the previous owner of Car 29 believes the car had been on his property since the 1930s. It was reported to have been used as a cottage residence, a doughnut shop and for storage.
In the fall of 2013, the Grass Lake Historical Society, now the Grass Lake Area Historical Connections (GLAHC), acquired the car from a private residence in Gilletts Lake. Their plans were to restore the car according to Marilyn O’Leary at the time “We don’t want to just restore the car,” she said. “Our goal is to find a suitable location for it so it can be another museum for our village.” On November 19, 2013, the century old car made the trip from Gilletts Lake to the Village of Grass Lake Department of Public Works maintenance barn behind the Village offices. The building was able to accommodate the nearly 60ft long car. Restoration on the car began, including replacing steel, rivets and disassembling the car for individual pieces to be restored.
Controversy surrounding the future and direction of Car 29 embroiled the GLAHC members, leading to a group of volunteers leaving the GLAHC and forming the Lost Railway Museum. Car 29 continued to be owned by the GLAHC.
In March of 2016, the Lost Railway Museum announced they were opening their new museum along Michigan Ave in downtown Grass Lake in the former Troy’s toolbox building. The $1 million renovations was to focus on the interurban railway and its importance to the rural communities where horse and buggies were still the norm. Phill Willis was quoted at the time as saying “All of a sudden for a nickel you could get on this exciting car and go to Jackson, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek and see all these fascinating things you’d never seen before. That was some change in history.”
In April of 2016, the Lost Railway Museum acquired a 1905 wooden streetcar, previously owned by the Chicago Transit Authority to be renovated and displayed in the new museum. The wooden car was also built by the St. Louis Car Company and was similar to cars that ran along the streets of Grass Lake and Wolf Lake Rd along the Boland. That car is now on display in the Lost Railway Museum.
In June of 2016, the GLAHC acquired another car, Car 154 which was used for parts in the restoration of Car 29. That car was not in a restorable condition. It was stored behind the Coe House Museum until this past spring, when it was sold.
This past January, the Village of Grass Lake filed an eviction notice with the GLAHC to have the car removed from the Village Barn. The eviction notice was resolved in July when the GLAHC gave Car 29 to Ken Soderbeck. He agreed to have it removed from the Village DPW barn by October. Soderbeck then donated Car 29 to the Lost Railway Museum.
While Car 29’s traveling days are over, its journey is still in its infancy. It will wait at the station next to the 1905 streetcar in the museum. Both cars will continue to be worked on and restored by volunteers.
The Lost Railway Museum is located at 142 W Michigan Ave, Grass Lake. It is open Wed & Thurs. 11-4 PM And Sat. 9-4 PM.