2018-03-11 / Front Page

Spirited debate on both sides as Saginaw County Board of Commissioners consider annexation

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

CHESANING – On Wednesday, March 7, four of the five Saginaw County Commissioners sitting on the county services committee voted in favor of allowing the Village of Chesaning to annex the former Peet Packing Plant on North Sharon Road. The entire Saginaw County Board of Commissioners will vote on the annexation on March 20.

Beau Parmenter, who owns the former Peet Packing Plant property, told commissioners, “20 years ago, this property was in bankruptcy.” He explained the property has been vacant for 20 years. Parmenter said he tried getting various businesses into the property; but was unsuccessful. He partly blames the township.

“The village welcomed me,” he said. Parmenter talked about the proposed business, PlantLife saying, “Together, our planned property will create 320 jobs and pay out $20 million in wages. As an excavator and contractor, my team can repurpose the building. No other location is as suitable as this site. Your favorable vote is essential.”

Several individuals spoke during the meeting’s opening public comment. The annexation and medical marijuana dominating public statements.

Tim Andrews said, “I am for annexation.” He explained that he served with the U.S. military in Grenada. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), back pain and leg pain from getting shot and stabbed. Andrews said he has been using medical marijuana for years.

“It doesn’t affect me, my wife or my children. If you ask my children, they’ll say, “That’s Dad’s medicine and it stinks,” Andrews said.

Andrews said medical marijuana makes it possible for him to walk and function. He encouraged the county commissioners to vote in favor of the annexation. He said he currently has to go to Flint to get this medication. He would prefer to obtain it locally.

Kent Greenfelder stated that between he and his wife, they are the largest taxpayers in the village and he wants help paying those taxes. “I have 13 acres that is the closest to the property. I welcome them as neighbors,” he said.

Bob Corrin said he’s been Chesaning Township supervisor for almost 20 years. “The way we found out was from a businessman who said, ‘We had inside help and there’s no way to stop us’.”

Corrin said, “Why does our vote not count? You’re going to decide it, not us. You people take our vote away from us. They say they want it for medical marijuana. If we need more medical marijuana in Saginaw County, why does it have to be in Chesaning? Our vote don’t count.”

Corrin explained that the county services committee had previously asked the township and village to get together to see if they could work out the issue. The meeting was set for Feb. 21. “We’ve got a copy of a letter requesting four of the (village) board members not to show up (on Feb. 21). The village couldn’t make a decision because they didn’t have quorum,” Corrin said.

Chesaning Village president Joseph Sedlar, Jr. said, “I sit back. We’re not trying to steal (township) property. It’s about jobs. It’s about revenue. It’s a business. It’s going to be huge revenue for Saginaw County. Saginaw County is hurting for money. It’s not about medical marijuana. It’s about money. We’re not stealing their land. We didn’t start this, the property owner did.”

Parmenter’s attorney, Patrick Greenfelder said, “The village is within the township. The township isn’t losing land.”

Marcus Westerlund told the county services committee, “I attended the meeting between Chesaning Township and the Village (of Chesaning) on Feb. 21st, and I would like to thank the county commissioners for coming and attending that meeting as well. The single most profound thing that occurred at that meeting was that not a single member of the Chesaning Township Board was able to provide a logical or intelligent argument for why they are opposed to hundreds of high paying jobs for their community. Not one. And as a member of the working-class generation, it is incredibly infuriating and disheartening to witness a non-working generation of individuals sit there and make decisions that deter and prohibit hundreds of high paying jobs for the working-class generation. That is absolutely wrong. I implore this board of commissioners to vote ‘yes’ to creating hundreds of jobs for the community of Chesaning and for the county of Saginaw.”

Zach Chludil said, “To go one step further, we want this for our hometown, our community. We want to see it benefit our hometown. Beau has won awards for land development. We don’t want to see this opportunity to go up north.”

Kayleigh Chludil talked about growing up in Chesaning and how she had wanted to leave. But now with the potential for jobs, she has a different opinion. She wants to “turn my hometown of Chesaning into a place people want to come to,” she said.

Robert Zelle explained he is affiliated with the company called PlantLife. He explained they have an organic fertilizer, the means to control odor and are working with the Saginaw County Sheriff. “We’ve got the best and the brightest. We’ll create 300 jobs,” Zelle said.

Patrick Greenfelder said, “We’re in contract negotiations with the Saginaw County Sheriff’s office. We proposed building a sheriff’s substation (at the front of the old Peet Packing Plant property). There would be no cost to the Village of Chesaning. In any case the security of the facility would be second to none.”

The Citizen contacted the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department about the possibility of a Chesaning substation. Lt. Michael Gomez explained that Sheriff Federspiel was not available for the meeting. The lieutenant met with them and provided numbers concerning the cost of staffing a substation, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Patrick Greenfelder explained that this property is unique; not only does it abut to the village, but it is surrounded by the village on three sides. It is already served by village water and sewer. He said, “This request would have no effect whatsoever on the township. We’re in contract negotiations with the Saginaw County Sheriff. We proposed building a sheriff’s substation on the property. The primary concern is whether they could staff it.” He added that this would be at no cost to the village. “The development of this property would boost taxable property values,” he said.

Commissioner Dennis Krafft said, “This is a spirited debate on both sides. Your president says it’s not about marijuana; but it is. I believe there is an anticipation that recreational marijuana will be approved in the next couple of years. “Is it possible to put this on a ballot between the village and the township?” Krafft asked.

An unidentified man in the audience said, “We’re going to go to Manistee if this doesn’t go through.”

Krafft said, “I don’t fully understand why this is being rushed through.”

Kent Greenfelder said, “This is a wave. You either catch it or it’s gone. This facility is ready to go. Time is essential.”

Commissioner Kyle Harris, who represents Saginaw County District 6, including both the Village of Chesaning and Chesaning Township said, “I’ve been dreading this day. I’ve heard a lot from both township and village. I know he says it’s medical marijuana. But it’s allowing a property owner to transfer his property.”

Commissioner Carl Ruth moved to recommend approval of the annexation to the Saginaw County Board. Of the five commissioners on the county services committee, four voted in favor of the annexation. Krafft voted against it.

Immediately after the meeting, Parmenter said, “I think things are going in a great direction to provide economic growth to Chesaning village and Saginaw County. I want to thank the commissioners.”

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