On August 17, the State Court Administrative Office assigned an appeal to 51st Circuit Court Judge Susan Sniegowski originally filed in the Osceola County's Circuit Court by Nestle Waters North America (which bottles Ice Mountain water) in order to circumvent Osceola's Zoning Board of Appeals' decision to nix a pipeline booster station that would move nearly twice the amount of water from Osceola Township to their tanker trucks in Evart. The board had upheld the township's Planning Commission's earlier denial.
Map showing location of a proposed pipeline booster station
As may be expected, a local state branch of the environmentalist group The Sierra Club has been keeping tabs on the controversial issue, and have noted the timeline of events that has led up to the assignment of Mason County's judge, after both judges serving Osceola and Mecosta County recused themselves. It notes that:
The Osceola Township Planning Commission has denied Nestlé a permit to build a pipeline booster station that would increase its pumping capacity from 250 gallons per minute to 450 at its Ice Mountain bottled water plant. Nestlé can appeal, says WOOD-TV 8, “so it’s possible the project may still move forward. However, the plan would still need approval by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.”
Update May 4: Detroit Free Press says Nestlé has appealed to the Osceola Township Zoning Board of Appeals, asking the board to reverse the Planning Commission’s denial.
Update June 20: Osceola Township Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the Township Planning Commission’s permit denial. MLive says Nestle can appeal the decision to Osceola County Circuit Court, but MDEQ still hasn’t decided whether it would be okay for Nestlé to pump that much water.
Update July 28: MLive reports say that Nestlé has appealed to the 49th Circuit Court. Meanwhile, DEQ still hasn’t ruled on Nestlé’s permit request. It wants Nestlé to re-do it’s study, which experts disputed last April. DEQ also “has sought input from the state Department of Natural Resources, the Attorney General’s office and Michigan Native American tribes.”
Update August 17: After two judges in Mecosta County and two in Osceola County recused themselves from Nestlé’s appeal, the case has been assigned to 51st Circuit Court Judge Susan Sniegowski in Ludington [End of timeline]
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing Nestle's application to boost pumping on its well in Osceola Township. The controversial application has generated significant opposition from the general public and Michigan tribes.
The DEQ is reviewing whether the proposed pumping rate of 400-gallons-per-minute from a spring aquifer could harm local wetlands and two spring-fed coldwater trout streams that run through the Evart area into the Muskegon River.
Township officials decided the company application did not conform to its zoning ordinance requirements, which Nestle disputes. Judge Sniegowski will decide whether to reverse the township's decision and grant Nestle the special land use permit it needs to build the booster station. Township officials say they've been told it may take several months before Sniegowski delivers an opinion.
Every street in the Fourth Ward that is being torn up for new water pipes for the increased demands of the cogeneration plant shows the same thing: lead gooseneck piping coming from the water main connecting to galvanized pipe that leads to the city shut off valve.
While it's great that the City is replacing their water lines with safe piping so that these households will no longer have to endure drinking through the city's own toxic pipes that are 70 years old plus, it's scary that this wouldn't be happening if the City didn't secretively do a tri-partite deal with the plant and PM Township (who both are very, very happy with the terms) that necessitated the replacement and upgrade. Even scarier that many more households still and will have those old lead pipes in the city's system in front of their house poisoning the next generation.
Thanks for finding that article, Verdad, here's a link to it for you others: Q&A with John Shay
Shoreline Media with all it's long-running scripts and pop-ups hasn't been allowing me to view it entirely without crashing my computer. Compare his goals and visions with what he has now. The West End plan was deep set in his mind even then.
I think there is a more important issue here and that is, do the citizens of a jurisdiction have the right to regulate their own zoning laws or can outside influences be given more power than the people who live in the area. I applaud the zoning board for sticking to the existing laws regardless of what the situation is, unlike Mason County's zoning board and commissioners who sold the County's residents down the river when it bent over backwards to allow the monster wind turbines to infest the beautiful orchards of Mason county. The bribe the County received from Consumers definitely helped to tilt the opinion and ruling in their favor, so now we have 350 + ft towers shoved up our as_es.
Most Planning Commissions and Zoning Boards of Appeals I know seem to be stacked with appointees who do not necessarily reflect the overall ideals of the citizenry, who then get trained/indoctrinated into more of a groupthink where esoteric theories hold sway over common sense and community sensibilities.
Willy's portrayal of the wind turbine issue is a classic example of that locally at the county level. At the city level, the Rental Inspection Ordinance, the West End Project, Legacy Park, the Ludington Avenue diet are all unanimously praised despite the costs and problems, by the Ludington PC, while the majority of citizens not otherwise indoctrinated just say "What the flurp is up with that?"
UPDATE: Back in mid-November, Osceola Township with a lot of support from people protesting around the courthouse, brought the defense of their zoning decision before Mason County Circuit Court Judge Sniegowski, who deferred judgment until she could look through the legal arguments and briefs.
Judge Sniegowski issued an opinion Wednesday, Dec. 20, ordering Osceola Township to issue a zoning permit to construct the booster pump house. Today's COLDNews mentioned that the county/township believed the judge had improperly analyzed their zoning code. Having been at the receiving end of an incredibly, epically bad misinterpretation of FOIA by Judge Sniegowski, I figured the township likely had a point-- one that the local paper wouldn't ever reveal. The Mlive article notes: "(Township attorney Bill Fahey) said the case hinges on whether Nestle must meet a higher standard for approval because it's project involves a building or structure. The judge determined there was an inconsistency in township ordinances, but Fahey said there is no inconsistency."
Being that no news source has provided the opinion or the apparent inconsistency, I'm inclined to believe Fahey. If the township does appeal, they will likely win in the appeals court.
Today Nestle's received a permit from the state DEQ to increase their pumping from 250 to 400 gpm. It is unclear how far along Osceola Twp, is with their original appeal of Judge Sniegowski's decision.
Thanks for the update.
Does anyone see a major conflict of interest with the new lead city attorney and the judge in regard to the Nestle issue?
...also wonder why the same judge lets so many felons, drug dealers , drunk drivers and sex offenders off with a slap on the wrist. Reading that most of the charged are having third, forth, fifth offenses? !!!! Very discouraging and seems like Ludington would be a magnet for repeat offender criminals given her record....
The COL's City Attorney Ross Hammersley and his firm is representing Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in the dispute, trying to prevent Nestle from taking water indiscriminately. I am not aware that Judge Sniegowski is still acting in this dispute, and even if she was, how Hammersley's new appointment as COL CA would create a conflict of interest, since the COL has no horses at the trough.
Please advise if you have some additional information that points that way, Lady Lake.