2017-12-28 / Front Page

Cherries and rentals make top story list


MASON SKEA’S name was not picked in a lottery that determined which students would fill a limited number of School of Choice seats at Glen Lake. His parents were able to sell their home in the Traverse City School District and moved within Glen Lake’s boundaries. MASON SKEA’S name was not picked in a lottery that determined which students would fill a limited number of School of Choice seats at Glen Lake. His parents were able to sell their home in the Traverse City School District and moved within Glen Lake’s boundaries. With anticipation of a slow — or at best, average — news week, the Leelanau Enteprise staff has voted to determine the top ten stories for 2017. We’ll release and elaborate on the top three stories in our Jan. 4 edition.

This week we’re unveiling Nos. 4-10. They are:

No. 4

Cherry industry knocked by imports

Cherry industry leaders are hopeful that the federal government will help stem the flow of imported cherry juice flooding the market.

Phil Korson, executive director of the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) watched as imported tart cherry juice has come to dominate a market created in part by a grower-funded public relations campaign.


NIKKI ROTHWELL, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, briefed the County Board on threats posed by an invasive insect, the spotted wing drosophila. However, it was the growing number of cherry imports that caught the attention of the industry in 2o17. NIKKI ROTHWELL, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, briefed the County Board on threats posed by an invasive insect, the spotted wing drosophila. However, it was the growing number of cherry imports that caught the attention of the industry in 2o17. In 2008, CMI launched a growth-backed campaign to position tart cherries as America’s superfruit. While the promotional campaign has increased the domestic concentrate juice market from 46 to 240 million, the U.S. contribution has remained flat.

Instead, imports of tart cherries have increased 10-fold, from 22 million pounds to 224 million pounds.

Cherry growers are accustomed to facing problems caused by weather. But in recent years they’ve had to also take on infestations of a new bug, the Spotted Wing Drosophila.

The coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, Nikki Rothwell, told the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners that some 20 percent of Leelanau County’s red tart cherry crop in 2016 was destroyed by the invasive bug. In 2017, research at the station found that the infestation can be impacted by pruning and mowing. However, more work remains to be done.

No. 5

Rentals draw complaints

The issue of seasonal rentals and their impact in communities locally and through the state came to the forefront in 2017.

The issue was the subject of a countywide planning meeting in the spring sponsored by the Leelanau County Planning and Community Development department, followed by many letters to the editors, forums and editorials published in the Leelanau Enterprise.

And Suttons Bay Township adopted a “short term rental ordinance” that will require the owners of residential properties that are rented out for less than a month at a time to obtain a $200 annual permit.

Proceeds will be used in part to cover a $7,484 annual contract with Host Compliance, which will be hired to regulate permitted — and unpermitted— residential short-term rentals in the township.

Operating mostly on line, the firm brings to the attention of township officials properties that are being advertised as short-term rentals for which permits have not been obtained.

Short-term rentals are also regulated by Suttons Bay and Northport villages. Meanwhile, at the state level, separate bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate that would prohibit local governments from enacting zoning ordinances that ban or restrict owners from renting out homes or condominiums for less than 28 days at a time.

No. 6

Private septic inspection push

Required inspections of private, residential septic systems has often been discussed but never acted upon at the county level.

However, the push for county-wide regulation gained some traction this year.

In September, the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department’s Board of Health in a split vote recommended that the Leelanau County Board of Commissioner adopt a point-of-sale inspection ordinance.

However, county corporate council said this has to be done in conjunction with the Board of Health and approved by both Leelanau and Benzie county commissioners.

Proponents of enacting a septic inspection ordinance in Leelanau County have long expressed concern that failed septic systems, particularly on waterfront properties on inland lakes, are endangering water quality. A septic inspection ordinance has been in place for many years in neighboring Benzie County.

County commissioners are set to take up the issue during a special session next month.

No. 7

Chamber, vintners link organizations

The Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce visitor center in Lake Leelanau was closed as the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail took over Chamber operations in September.

The Chamber office was moved to Greilickville to become part of the Wine Trail’s offices and future welcome center.

And Lorri Hathaway, the executive director of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, just this month took over for Matt Gregory and will serve as president of the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (LPCC).

Goals for 2018 include implementing a new ambassador initiative; expediting the search for an executive director; building the “Welcome Center” at Leelanau Studios in Elmwood Township.

No. 8

Schools close ‘choice’ options

School-of-Choice (SOC) has changed the face of education throughout the state since it was a adopted in 1996.

Enrollment at county schools has been driven by School of Choice over the past 20 years.

However, this year marked the first time any county school has turned away SOC students.

Leland Public School, which recorded its highest-ever on campus enrollment at 520, capped its four grade 1/2 mixed classes at 24 and three 3/4 mixed classrooms at 26 and 27 students.

Eighth grade was also closed to further students with a count of 28.

At Glen Lake SOC enrollment was frozen for all but a handful of slot in the Young 5 and kindergarten program. And lottery determined who would be filling those seats.

No. 9

Lakeshore comes close to mark

Attendance at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been on a roll in recent years, but it’s highly unlikely that 2017 will be remembered as a record-breaker.

A slow November kept the Lakeshore from setting another attendance mark, says Tom Ulrich, deputy superintendent at the national park.

“But it’s going to easily be the second highest attendance, just behind 2016,” Ulrich said in December.

An improved economy, continued national exposure and — of course — the world-class views provided by the Lakeshore have served to keep more and more visitors coming to Leelanau County.

No. 10

Nelson quits without notice

About this time last year, Suttons Bay School’s superintendent Chris Nelson got glowing reviews, a 5-year contract extension and a raise in salary to $110,000 a year.

But the wheels began to fall of the wagon the following month when Nelson recommended his board not extend Leelanau Montessori Charter Academy’s charter and lease.

Nelson was given a “highly effective” rating by the School Board in April. But, behind the scenes contract talks with district teachers were going nowhere, and the district’s 2017-18 budget adopted in June reflected $300,000 less in revenue than the previous year, due to declining enrollment.

With layoffs looming, teachers requested a state fact-finder be called into broker an agreement.

Before that could happen, Nelson abruptly resigned just days into the 2017-18 fiscal year.

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