2017-12-28 / Life in Leelanau

2017 Rewind: Cherry imports, roadwork, marijuana controversy

A TEAM ELMER’S crane pulls a seaplane from Cedar Lake on May 8 about five hours after wind gusts caused the plane to crash. The pilot was uninjured. A TEAM ELMER’S crane pulls a seaplane from Cedar Lake on May 8 about five hours after wind gusts caused the plane to crash. The pilot was uninjured. Editor’s note: Starting this week, the Enterprise will revisit the front-page stories of 2017. We’re covering January through June in this edition; next week we’ll look back at July through December.

January 5, 2017

More than 600 people turned out at two separate fundraisers Aug. 27 and generated thousands of dollars to help two ailing young people in the county.

They showed a united Leelanau County, one willing to go out of its way to help neighbors.

Friends and family rallied ‘round Nate Wilson, a 25-year-old farmer from Solon Township, who was diagnosed in June with a degenerative eye disease that attacks young people.

* * *

Unlike the last time the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners picked a new chairman two years ago, there was no drama surrounding the selection of District No. 3 Commissioner Will Bunek this week.

At its organizational meeting held Tuesday morning, the board voted 7-0 on the first ballot to name Bunek, a Republican, as chairman of the board for the next two years

Bipartisan agreement on the biennial decision was remarkable in relation to recent history. Two years ago, District No. 6 Commissioner Carolyn (Peachy) Rentenbach, a Democrat, was elected chairman by her peers only after multiple votes were cast on the issue, with the board split along party lines on most of the votes.

January 12, 2017

Residents and visitors to the Leelanau Peninsula can expect delays in getting to their favorite spots this summer as nearly 13 miles of M-22 spanning four townships gets some much needed work.

EISLEY LOU West appeared on the front page of the Jan. 19 edition with a 26-inch northern pike caught on the ice of Lake Leelanau. EISLEY LOU West appeared on the front page of the Jan. 19 edition with a 26-inch northern pike caught on the ice of Lake Leelanau. The $6.5 million project covers 12.7 miles of the state highway from M-204 just south of Leland to Thoreson Road in Glen Arbor Township, which will be repaired and resurfaced.

The contract has been awarded to Team Elmers, with the work scheduled to begin on May 15 and run until Aug. 4.

* * *

The need for more “affordable housing” has been a hot-button issue in Leelanau County for many years and will likely remain so in 2017 following a split vote of the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners this week.

At its first executive meeting of its new term, the County Board on Tuesday agreed to appoint a special, temporary “housing committee” to determine whether the board should set a goal for 2017 of establishing a more permanent committee.

LADDIE, A SHELTIE, was pictured in the Feb. 9 edition after qualifying for the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. LADDIE, A SHELTIE, was pictured in the Feb. 9 edition after qualifying for the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. Such a committee would look into ways the county can address what commissioners termed “housing challenges.”

* * *

If a dredge can’t come to the mountain — of sand, that is — then Leland will buy its own.

That’s the conclusion reached by the Leland Township Harbor Commission, but it’s a solution that will cost $500,000.

While raising money for such a venture might be a mountain of a problem in some communities, more than $109,000 has already been raised on Fundly.com, a crowdfunding site.

The $500,000 cost covers purchasing a dredge and the various pipes and other equipment needed to pull the sand out of the mouth of the harbor, as well as training for those who will operate it.

NORTHPORT ALUMNUS Nathan Scherrer won a Grammy in February for his production of Beyonce’s “Formation,” which was released in February 2016. NORTHPORT ALUMNUS Nathan Scherrer won a Grammy in February for his production of Beyonce’s “Formation,” which was released in February 2016. The township Harbor Committee plans to kick in $300,000 from its dredging, maintenance and improvement fund.

January 19, 2017

Two troopers from the Michigan State Police post in Cadillac will soon be stationed in Leelanau County as part of the “resident trooper concept.”

One of the troopers, Jason Tropf, hails from Leelanau County.

Their presence will help law enforcement efforts, says Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich. The troopers will be given a room at the Sheriff’s Office and will work in Leelanau County, though they will still be employees of the Cadillac post.

Mike Mihalic, a 22-year veteran with the MSP, and Tropf, who was hired in 2014, will be in their new post by Feb. 12.

ROAD WORK slowed down county residents and seasonal guests this summer. Road closures and construction took place on both sides of the peninsula. ROAD WORK slowed down county residents and seasonal guests this summer. Road closures and construction took place on both sides of the peninsula. * * *

The fate of a new $29 million casino and a proposed $23 million, 216-slip marina on West Grand Traverse Bay in Peshawbestown appear to be at the heart of what members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians call a “major power struggle” involving the Tribal Council.

Tribal members who signed a petition to recall Tribal Councilor Mark Wilson were disappointed last week when the tribal Election Board rejected the petition on a technicality, according to interviews with some of those attending the Jan. 12 meeting.

Wilson said the recall is part of a discussion within the Tribe over the future of the development, which would change the look of shoreline properties in Peshawbestown.

LEELANAU COUNTY Sheriff Mike Borkovich consoles Carol and Will Bunek on May 30 as two barns on the family’s centennial farm burn to the ground. LEELANAU COUNTY Sheriff Mike Borkovich consoles Carol and Will Bunek on May 30 as two barns on the family’s centennial farm burn to the ground. * * *

One of only two short-term rental ordinances approved by local governments in Leelanau County may soon be updated.

And a proposed short-term rental ordinance for Suttons Bay Township has been put on hold following questions and concerns by landlords. The rental business has come under a spotlight recently throughout Leelanau County and other areas of the state where tourism is an economic mainstay.

The Suttons Bay Village Council this week appointed a special committee to consider changes to its short-term rental ordinance.

Short term rentals are properties rented by visitors for less than 30 days at a time, often on a weekly basis during the busy summer tourist season. Many short-term rental properties are on prime waterfront in residential neighborhoods.

January 26, 2017

The value of building permits issued by the county jumped 23.5 percent last year, keeping workers in the construction trades hopping and business owners on the lookout for more help.

According to the county Construction Code Authority’s (CCA) year-end report, the estimated value of projects for which permits were issued totaled $57,247,890 — just $192,719 short of the all-time high recorded in 2000.

The figure, however, is somewhat skewed because of changes made in 2007 in how permits are tallied. A graph on Page 2 shows that construction has not yet returned to the levels leading up to the housing crunch that started in 2008.

* * *

Geradine Simkins of Cedar spent Monday regrouping after a whirlwind weekend trip to Washington, D.C.

She was among at least 20 people from Leelanau County who went by air, bus and car to participate in the Women’s March in our nation’s capital.

Washington, D.C. but in cities across the country, including Traverse City, and the world — began soon after the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Trump took the oath of office Friday.

* * *

Husband and wife Tim Cypher and Egan McGlynn plan to go ahead with construction of a boathouse and dock long in the works along the Lake Leelanau Narrows.

They’ll need a permit for the project from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Water Resources Division, which is expected to be issued.

Proposed docks in that area of the Narrows have taken on many forms through the years, and at one time were the subject of a lawsuit and protest. The latest and smallest version has drawn concerns from the Lake Leelanau Lake Association, which is encouraging its members to make their views known by commenting on the permit application. It is also requesting that the DNR hold a public hearing on the issue.

February 2, 2017

Expensive sewer hook-up fees needed for a 36-unit affordable housing development proposed for a former hospital in Northport may have flushed the project down the drain.

Craig Patterson, senior vice president of Woda, the company that proposed the development, said the project was complicated by high construction costs and its location.

Fees to hook-up to the municipal sewer in Northport would have added another $612,000 to the project, something Patterson was unaware of when he pitched the idea.

There would also have been usage costs of $732 per year for each apartment.

* * *

A $52 million development along M-22 in Peshawbestown is hanging in the balance of a split vote on the Tribal Council of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The development includes a strip mall, outdoor amphitheater and waterfront casino overlooking a 216-slip marina on West Grand Traverse Bay.

A slim majority on the Tribal Council and the EDC board are continuing to sort out the details of the proposed project, with a majority currently in favor: Councilors Percy Bird, Mark Wilson, David Arroyo and recently appointed Tom Shomin. Wilson is the subject of a recall effort.

* * *

Leelanau teachers continue to get grades above their peers in other counties, based on evaluation results for the 2015-16 school year.

According to recently released information from the Michigan Department of Education, all but two of the 157 teachers evaluated in the county’s four K-12 districts were found to be effective or highly effective.

The number is unchanged from the 2014-15 school year. One teacher is employed in Northport, the other in Suttons Bay.

About three-quarters of the teachers evaluated were determined to be “highly effective” — the best grade available. That percentage is well ahead of the statewide level of 42 percent.

February 9, 2017

Remo Polselli is likely still playing a role in ownership of Sugar Loaf Resort, county officials believe.

Meanwhile, the new owner of the resort, an attorney from California, is being put on notice that he must bring the resort into compliance with the state Construction Code by May 1 or face legal action from Leelanau County.

County officials confirmed this week that the current owner of the resort, California real estate attorney Jeff Katofsky, has told them that Polselli “holds the paper” on the resort and is underwriting Katofsky’s mortgage.

A company controlled by Katofsky, Sweet Bread L.L.C., acquired Sugar Loaf Resort on Nov. 14, 2015, from a company controlled by Polselli called 4500 Investments, L.L.C.

According to a warranty deed on file in the county Register of Deeds Office, the sales price was $3 million — but Katofsky has since insisted he actually paid far more for the property.

* * *

A discussion about what to do with an historic county-owned barn could become a topic of lively discussion at next week’s Leelanau County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The county is currently seeking bids to dismantle, remove and salvage wood from the Leelanau County 4-H Barn located at Myles Kimmerly County Park on Burdickville Road near Maple City.

The barn was constructed in 1924 from a mail-order Montgomery-Ward kit and was part of what was once known as the county’s “poor farm” for homeless county residents. It has since fallen into disrepair.

Two residents deeply involved in county history are aligned against the barn’s dismantling.

* * *

A local dog is headed for the big time.

Laddie, a Shetland sheepdog, and his owners, Mike and Pat Germain of Leelanau Township, are leaving today for New York City, where Laddie has qualified for a spot in the Masters Agility Championship being held Saturday as part of the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

February 16, 2017

There’ll be an empty chair the next time Ruth Devrou sits down to play cards.

Her sister-in-law and card partner Shirley Devrou, 73, was one of two victims who died in an early-morning fire Saturday in Northport.

“She was a very giving person. She’d give you the shirt off her back,” said Devrou, who played cards with her sister in-law and her own sister, Donna Foster, a couple of times a week. “That’s why she had someone living with her.”

The other fire victim, Willie Jones, 43, had been renting a room in Devrou’s trailer home, located at 838 N. Mill St., directly across the street from the Leelanau Township firehall.

Jones had worked as a cook in local restaurants for the past several years.

* * *

One year ago Nathan Scherrer’s parents headed to Los Angeles in the hopes they would get to see their son pick up his first Grammy.

He didn’t win that time.

But this year he did — garnering the Best Music Video award for his production of Beyonce’s “Formation,” which was released in February 2016.

“We were fine not going this year,” said Jim Scherrer, Nathan’s father. “We suspect there will be other chances.”


Scherrer, who graduated from Northport High School in 2007, was also nominated for the video “Up&Up” by alternative rockers Coldplay.

February 23, 2017

A Suttons Bay man who was burned over half of his body has been awarded a settlement of more than $5 million, likely the largest personal injury settlement ever awarded by a jury in Leelanau or Grand Traverse counties.

Gary Leonard spent months in a hospital burn unit after an explosion caused by a gas leak that took place on a commercial food truck when he attempted to light an oven.

Ray Pleva, the former owner of Pleva Meats, was one of seven jury members.

“We all knew how serious this was,” Pleva said. “He was a strong, healthy person before this happened. There’s a lot of things he’ll never be able to do again.”

Pleva said that while only five jurors needed to agree on the amount they awarded, all seven agreed in this case.

* * *

Dispatchers in Leelanau County’s 9-1-1 Emergency Management department are considering unionizing.

County officials as well as a spokesman for the dispatchers confirmed Wednesday morning that the 10 county dispatchers will vote next month on whether to form a union.

County administrator Chet Janik said county officials were notified this week of the move.

The 9-1-1 dispatchers are considering joining the Police Officers Association of Michigan – the same union that represents road patrol deputies in the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office.

Local dispatchers are to be provided a ballot by March 9 that they must return to the union by March 23. Officials said a decision whether to unionize will likely be announced March 24.

* * *

Winter-weary faces were grinning this week with record-breaking warm weather.

But not everyone was smiling.

“It’s a little nerve-racking, “ said Nikki Rothwell, director of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township.

The mercury has topped out at 50 or above for five of the past six days, melting what was left of the season’s 98.6- inch snowfall.

A high of 57 degrees recorded Tuesday at the National Weather Service coop weather station in Maple City, tied the record set in 1983.

March 2, 2017

Long-shuttered Sugar Loaf Resort is finally being, well ... shuttered.

Contractors were at the resort this week placing boards over broken windows and doors, posting “no trespassing” signs, and preparing to install a fence around much of the property.

County administrator Chet Janik said work to bring Sugar Loaf into compliance with the state Construction Code apparently began last week with the appearance of some new boards over windows and a few new “no trespassing” signs.

Neighbors have long complained that the blighted Sugar Loaf property is a magnet for vandals, presents serious safety hazards, and is driving down property values in the area.

While the work at the closed resort may not increase property values, it will bring the facility closer to meeting expectations of the county Construction Code Authority.

* * *

Chief Jim Porter of the Suttons Bay Bingham Fire and Rescue Department hasn’t found anyone willing to fill a fulltime, fully benefitted position for a dually trained firefighter and paramedic since a retirement last summer created a vacancy.

Consequently, the Fire Board has voted to increase pay for firefighters by 10 percent across the board.

Last summer, nine people submitted applications for the position but only two of them showed up for an interview and only one of them passed a test. That person turned down an offer of employment.

* * *

Neil Wetherbee, who has been on-the-job in the Northport School district for about eight months, is facing a challenge that few superintendents share.

It’s time for teacher evaluations and Wetherbee is having to look outside the district for someone to evaluate his wife Corrine Wetherbee, a Title I teacher, and his uncle Steve Wetherbee, who teaches secondary math and physics.

Wetherbee himself will be evaluated by Northport school board members, although Tom Wetherbee, board president and his father, will have to recuse himself.

Wetherbee is looking to the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District for some help in conducting teacher evaluations, though the district has not yet decided which evaluation tool will be used.

March 9, 2017

An attorney for Suttons Bay business owner Pam Leonard’s insurance company has filed a motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.

The petition seeks to overturn what is considered the largest personal injury settlement ever awarded by a jury in Leelanau or Grand Traverse counties.

Leonard’s brother, Gary Leonard, was awarded a $5 million settlement in February after he was injured in an explosion in a food truck owned by Pam Leonard.

J. Scott Fanzini of the St. Clair Shores firm of Merry, Farnen & Ryan P.C., filed the motion Friday in 13th Circuit Court.

The misconduct motion stems from the actions of juror Ray Pleva, who took a picture of a gas line he had capped off at his home and showed it to fellow jurors, according to the motion filed by Fanzini.

* * *

Suspected bank robber William F. Minore’s jury trial will likely not start next Wednesday, March 15, as scheduled.

And still to be decided when the trial does begin is if jurors will hear about Minore’s bizarre online efforts to “save the planet.”

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Power was to rule on that motion and several more at a hearing set for 2 p.m. today.

Minore, 69, is charged with armed robbery, unlawful driving away of an automobile and felony firearm possession in connection with the Sept. 7 robbery of the Empire Huntington Bank in which $36,966 in cash was taken.

* * *

While high winds have constituted much of the weather story this week in Leelanau County, it’s sudden dropoffs in temperatures that have more potential this time of year to damage cherry and grape crops.

So far, though, growers and agricultural experts say their crops appear safe.

Mercurial spring temperatures are expected to take a nosedive Friday, which has not gone unnoticed by Greg Williams, who grows cherries and apples near Cedar and Maple City.

March 16, 2017

A nearly $2.5 million loan the county took out to pay for a major upgrade of emergency communications equipment could be paid off in part by a new telephone surcharge.

The County Board is giving serious consideration to imposing the tax as early as next month on every land line and cell phone registered in the county.

At its regular monthly executive meeting this week, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners heard from Emergency Management director Matt Ansorge, County Treasurer John Gallagher, and County Administrator Chet Janik on the topic.

* * *

The future of a county-owned barn built 106 years ago could go up in smoke or be linked to some of the most prestigious places in America.

To say the least, it remains cloudy.

An active group of county historians continues to lobby the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners to preserve the old barn, which is located on the north side of County Road 616 west of Maple City, and return it to usefulness.

* * *

It’s not unusual for Leelanau residents to host summer guests in their home.

In a new twist to problems county employers encounter finding places for summer employees to live, business owners are hoping county residents will open their homes for a few more.

March 23, 2017

Sheriff Mike Borkovich may need to set up an online “GoFundMe” account if he wants to acquire a $455,000 patrol boat for use in Lake Michigan waters off Leland.

But at least he was authorized to apply for a federal grant that would cover up to 75 percent of the boat’s price tag.

Raising the $113,750 the county would need to “match” the hoped-for grant of $341,250 is another matter.

At its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners authorized the sheriff to apply for funding through a “Port Security” grant program offered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

* * *

Leelanau County, long recognized for its bountiful fruit harvests, could become home to another crop — commercial marijuana.

Township officials have verified that inquiries into establishing new marijuana businesses have been made in Solon, Suttons Bay, Leland and Bingham townships.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich is cool to the idea.

“I’m not against a licensed physician or pharmacist dispensing marijuana to a 75-year-old man with prostate cancer or an 82-year-old woman with breast cancer,” Borkovich said. “But from what I’ve seen, the bulk of the people getting their medical marijuana cards are between 18 and 30 years old.”

March 30, 2017

A new website that unveils the salaries of government workers is being lauded — and questioned.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan Press Association (MPA) and the Michigan Coalition for Open Government last Thursday launched a searchable online database listing the salaries of nearly 300,000 state employees.

“The taxpayers of the state deserve full disclosure,” said Doug Caldwell, MPA president and publisher of the Petoskey News-Review, Charlevoix Courier and the Gaylord Herald Times. ”Today when there’s so much skepticism about what the government is doing and how it is run, this is a way for everyone to search for the information they want to have. And it’s all in one place.”

April 6, 2017

A proposal to increase a property tax rate by 45 percent to fund the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) has mixed support.

Voters in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties will be asked on May 2 to approve a .5-mill levy through 2022. The agency’s current levy of .3447 mills, rolled back from .35 mills, will expire on Dec. 31, 2017.

* * *

Steve Nowicki put his fishing boat up for sale this week and will soon be embarking on a new adventure with his Shipwreck Cafe, which is due to open by Memorial Day.

The cafe, which will be located in a former dentist’s office on M-22, is one of several new tourist-related businesses in the works in Empire Village.

Megan and Peter Schous hope to break ground on their new hotel this summer.

April 13, 2017

Effective immediately, Leelanau County residents over the age of 60 applying for help from the county’s Senior Services department may not receive the help they need and could be put on a waiting list.

A projected $130,000 shortfall in the department’s budget for 2017 this week forced the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners to order that substantial cuts be made in the department’s programs.

The board’s decision was made during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon. Customarily, the full board considers issues during an executive session on the second Tuesday morning of each month and makes decisions the following Tuesday evening.

* * *

If a company doesn’t make any money can it be considered a nonprofit? And should it have to pay taxes?

If you ask Northport community supporter Bill Collins the answer is “no.”

Collins recently formed a new company that will run the Northport Creek Golf Course (NCGC). The new company, Northport Golf Course Inc., has been registered as a nonprofit entity with the state of Michigan.

Northport Golf Course Inc., which will manage the golf course, incorporated as a nonprofit earlier this month, according to records on file with the state Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau.

* * *

Municipal sewer systems in Leelanau County have somewhat of a checkered past, but not because of their science.

By most accounts government-run sewer systems in Leelanau County operate just fine, fulfilling their missions of collecting human waste into one plant where it can be treated and released safely into the environment.

April 20, 2017

Your monthly phone bill will be a little higher, starting in July.

That’s when a 42 cent surcharge will begin on phone lines to help pay for a $2.4 million upgrade to Leelanau County’s 9-1-1 emergency dispatch service.

The surcharge will apply not only to all land lines serving Leelanau County addresses, but also to cell phones with a Leelanau County billing address.

The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday night to authorize the surcharge at 42 cents because that is the maximum amount a county board can charge on its own authority under state law without a vote of the people.

The County Board’s vote to add the surcharge was 6-1, with District No. 7 Commissioner Melinda Lautner opposed.

* * *

The recently released 2016 Annual Report of crime statistics from the Sheriff’s Office shows that there were 145 reports of unruly animals last year, and 131 reports for those who were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

To compare, in 2015 there were 129 animal calls and 87 under-the-influence drivers.

Why the change?

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich points to the number of third, fourth- and fifth-time drunk driving offenders that are being caught.

* * *

A business partnership forged between the largest chamber of commerce in the county and the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association (LPVA) was born out of convenience for both tourist-related organizations, explains Chamber president Matt Gregory.

The LPVA had systems in place to handle bookkeeping and promote activities such as festivals over social media that through the partnership will be provided free of charge to the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Gregory said.

April 27, 2017

Use of the word “ban” in the same sentence as “short term rentals” gained the attention of dozens of Leelanau County residents interacting last week on a Facebook page.

The online discussion was heavy on emotion and misinformation, but light on facts.

“Banning short term rentals in an area that lives off tourism just to get affordable housing for low wage workers working in the tourism industry … this makes sense to who exactly?” one person asked.

A thread containing some 43 comments and nearly three times as many replies followed on the social media site.

* * *

Some Northport business owners are crying foul at what they say is an uneven and unfair system of assessing sewer usage on their buildings.

Some buildings with apartments are charged at a higher rate than others, the classification system is confusing and homes that are rented out seasonally are not even figured into the equation, they contend.

The practice, they say, is not attracting business as it was intended to do, but flushing it away.

One business owner, in fact, pays $9,901 per quarter for his building on the corner of Waukazoo and Nagonaba formerly known as the Big Store. The building now houses a cafe, fitness center and a nine-room inn.

* * *

Barring any significant frozen precipitation, it looks like winter 2016-17 will come in just short of last year, with no snow expected through the weekend.

That may or may not be good for two close entries in the Enterprise snowfall contest — depending upon whose guess comes in first.

As of presstime yesterday, the seasonal snowfall at the National Weather Service cooperative station in Maple City totaled 123.4 inches, a little over four inches below 2016-17.

May 4, 2017

With the sweet cherry bloom set to take off this weekend across Leelanau County, local orchardists are torn a bit about the upcoming cherry season.

They are hoping for a solid sweet cherry crop, and warmer weather is needed to pollinate the blooms that are now popping.

But there’s a big carry-over of tarts from the 2016 crop.

“I don’t think anybody is hoping for a limb buster,” said Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station. “And I was talking to some folks in mid-central (Michigan) who I thought might have gotten hit a lot harder (with poor pollination) because it was wet and cold when things were in bloom. But they seem to think everything is OK.”

* * *

Dozens of gasoline and diesel fuel tanks at the 43-acre Marathon Petroleum Corporation property on S. West Bay Shore Drive (M-22) in Greilickville are being demolished.

A spokesman for the corporation said the demolition began on April 25 and the project will be complete later this summer.

“A terminal has been in that location for several decades and was acquired by (Marathon Petroleum) in late 1999,” said corporate communications manager Jamal T. Kheiry.

* * *

Sweet cherry trees are expected to be in bloom this weekend through most of Leelanau County, with tarts to follow for the weekend of May 13-14.

Calls and emails are coming in from down-staters wondering when to tour the county for views of her annual spring fashion show.

“It’s always a beautiful time of year when the cherries are blooming,” said Lorri Hathaway, executive director of the Leelanau Wine Trail. “It’s almost like a fall color tour, where visitors drive around but are looking at orchards.

“Everything is popping out, and there is a spring freshness in the air.”

May 11, 2017

One of the last appointees to the Trump cabinet may be the most important for Leelanau County, whose cherry growers are asking Washington for protection from a flood of imported cherry juice.

Mr. Robert Lighthizer, meet Mr. Phil Korson.

Lighthizer is President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative. He still needs confirmation from the U.S. Senate to begin his tenure, although Trump nominated him on Jan. 3.

Korson is executive director or the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI), which has been watching warily as imported tart cherry juice has come to dominate a market that was created through a public relations campaign funded by domestic growers.

“The market was built on the backs of American cherry farmers,” Korson said. “In 2008 we launched our campaign to position cherries as America’s super fruit. And we’ve benefited from that. In that market growth, had we had a bigger percentage of that, we would have moved our inventory.”

* * *

Anxiety over immigration is on the rise in some communities in Leelanau County as the growing season begins and seasonal migrant workers return to the area.

A somewhat frantic caller offered a tip to an Enterprise reporter last week that all public schools were being raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

How do you know that to be true, the reporter asked.

Well all you have to do is contact the schools, the caller said, and she knew it to be true because she read it on one of the “Indivisible” websites that have popped up across the country.

* * *

Despite an attempt by some county commissioners to reconsider deep cuts to the county’s Senior Services programs earlier this week, letters were sent out yesterday to hundreds of senior citizens informing them that “asset testing” will now be required for certain services.

In addition, many of the Senior Services department programs including voucher programs for restaurant dining will be discontinued entirely, a contract for Registered Nurse services through Share Care of Leelanau will be terminated and the department’s finance director will be laid off.

May 18, 2017

Leelanau County is declaring war on the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), a fruit fly that experts say could destroy the county’s — and the world’s — red tart cherry industry.

The coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, Nikki Rothwell, told the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners Tuesday evening that some 20 percent of Leelanau County’s red tart cherry crop last year was destroyed by the invasive bug.

“This is really a national and global problem,” Rothwell added. “There was a 50-percent crop loss in Italy last year.”

* * *

The fate of what Northport Village officials are calling a rooming house owned by former village administrative coordinator Frank Goodroe is being handled at two special meetings — one that was to be held yesterday and another at 4 p.m. today at the village office.

At question is whether a homeowner can have roommates, and the very definition of a family occupying one home. An earlier meeting on the subject required a court recorder and resulted in a 91-page transcription of discussions.

The case is complicated because Goodroe says he was asked to resign in 2015 by current Village President Phil Mikesell. Village administrator Barb Van Voigtlander subsequently volunteered to fill Goodroe’s position for just $1,000 a year and was appointed by a unanimous vote of the Village Council including Mikesell.

Goodroe filed an appeal after being told he was running a boarding house and violating the village zoning ordinance.

May 25, 2017

It’s the fourth quarter for a decision over whether to spend from about $735,000 to $880,000 to install artificial turf on the Glen Lake football field.

Opposite sides have marched out Facebook posts to further their views. The Board of Education this week put off a decision on the project, which has been years in the planning.

A decision is expected at the School Board meetings set for Monday, June 12.

* * *

Moving a new car from concept to production is a long and laborious process that doesn’t always end in a shiny, new vehicle rolling off the assembly line.

That process — and even those ‘failed’ concept cars that never made it to showrooms — are the focus of the Cars As Art exhibit this weekend at the Village Arts Building in Northport.

* * *

Peak blossom season in orchard-rich Leelanau County — a treat for residents and visitors — usually occurs in mid- May.

A drive might be required to the Peninsula’s more northern reaches, but there are still some blocks of cherries in bloom.

And many orchards of apples, the county’s second-biggest fruit crop, should be in their prime for viewing this weekend.

June 1, 2017

Will Bunek stood in his white socks about supper-time Tuesday and watched as two barns on his family’s centennial farm burned to the ground.

There was nothing he could do — and little that the seven fire departments at the scene could do to save the main barn or what the family referred to as the “horse barn” behind it.

However, firefighters did stop the fire from spreading to the grainery, a chicken coop, and more importantly the family farm house, which was built in the 1880s.

Rather than dwell on their losses — which were substantial, as the barns and their contents were insured for only $10,000 — Carol and Will Bunek spoke about what went right for them that day.

“There’s so much to be thankful for,” said Carol Bunek. “No one was hurt. There wasn’t a wind, and the grass was wet from the start of a rain.”

* * *

Homeowners on three county lakes have new tools at their disposal to scratch the problem of swimmer’s itch.

The Glen Lake Association (GLA), Lake Leelanau Lake Association and Lime Lake Association are part of the 24-member Michigan Swimmer’s Itch Partnership (MSIP), which is aimed at fighting swimmer’s itch.

The itch is caused by a microscopic parasite that lives in waterfowl such as duck or geese. Locally, the merganser duck has been identified as the main carrying culprit.

“Our overall goal is to limit the number of broods that come to the lake in future years,” said Rob Karner, GLA biologist.

* * *

The smallest class of Leelanau County graduates in recent history will be issued diplomas in five separate commencement ceremonies this weekend in Leelanau County.

Just 153 seniors are scheduled to march to Pomp and Circumstance Friday and Sunday at the county’s four public school districts and Lake Leelanau St. Mary. The number is down from 158 last spring.

Grad numbers dropped or remained the same at four of the five schools this year. Suttons Bay Public School is the anomaly with 10 more donning caps and gowns than last year at 46.

June 8, 2017

The northern entrance to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will no longer include a cherry orchard.

Personnel from the National Park Service cut fruit trees on recently-acquired property on the northern edge of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Park staff felled cherry trees from property between Co. Rd. 651 and Overby Road in Centerville Township.

“It’s one of two properties the Park purchased from the Simpson family,” said Tom Ulrich, Lakeshore assistant superintendent.

* * *

An error in original minutes taken at a Northport Village finance committee meeting held May 26 almost had two recommendations affecting the municipal sewer — and the proposals behind them — dead in the water.

The author of those minutes says the errors resulted from confusion during the meeting. Others in the community disagree, suggesting the minutes were written incorrectly to keep the current sewer rate structure in place.

* * *

Chris Harrington of Suttons Bay went to the emergency room in December with abdominal pain.

The 43-year-old driver for American Waste never anticipated he’d be sidelined for the next 12 months fighting cancer.

“I couldn’t use the bathroom for five days and was in a lot of pain,” Harrington said. “I had half my colon taken out and my appendix was about to burst. I was hours away from being Stage 4.”

Harrington is one of two Leelanau County men in their 40s who are battling colorectal cancer. Mike DePuy, a 1996 Glen Lake graduate, was diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer in May 2016.

June 15, 2017

Although a sale of the former Leelanau County courthouse property in Leland was finally consummated last month after a decade of effort, it wasn’t until this week that county officials revealed exactly how much money the county made on the deal.

It was only a fraction of the money officials thought the property was worth in 2007.

The 2-plus acre property that was the site of the county courthouse, jail and other office buildings on the Leland riverfront in downtown Leland was considered a “brownfield” that required environmental cleanup because of historic contamination on the site.

In 2007, the county agreed to sell the property for redevelopment under the county’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to a group of local investors doing business as Varley-Kelly Properties.

The price tag was $2.4 million.

* * *

Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik this week received a glowing performance appraisal from his bosses, a pay raise, and an offer to renew his contract for another three years.

If he stays on the job until the contract concludes, Janik will become the county’s longest-serving administrator. The position was created in 1985.

With almost no discussion, Janik’s bosses, members of the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners, presented him with an “appraisal report” of his job performance that graded him at 4.7 overall out of a possible five points.

Janik’s work drew praise from both sides of the aisle.

* * *

The hazards of water recreation and the importance of boater safety were brought into focus this week when an 18-year-old Traverse City man drowned in West Grand Traverse Bay.

North Cummins of southern Grand Traverse County drowned Sunday evening while canoeing on the bay off Elmwood Township.

According to the Michigan State Police, Cummins and 17-year-old Isaac Marshall, also of Traverse City, were about 300 yards away from shore about 7 p.m. when the canoe overturned.

June 22, 2017

It’s no secret that pedestrians trying to cross M-22 anywhere along the busiest stretch of highway in Leelanau County face substantial risk of being run over.

However, officials of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) say they may help to resolve the problem.

According to MDOT officials, June 22 was the date they planned to install a newfangled “seasonal pedestrian refuge island” in the middle of the M-22 commercial corridor in Greilickville as a “pilot project.”

It’s the first time anyone has attempted such a project in Michigan, according to MDOT officials.

* * *

There’s going to be room at the inn for quite awhile, but no place to stay.

That wasn’t the National Park Service’s intention.

Both proposals submitted by privately owned companies to rehabilitate the Sleeping Bear Inn in Glen Haven to its original use have been rejected, leaving Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore officials to ponder upon their next step.

* * *

A plan to create a medical marijuana growing facility in Solon Township is headed toward a public hearing next month.

The facility, proposed by a Leelanau County resident whose mailing address is listed on the same property, requires a Zoning Ordinance amendment. The Solon Township Planning Commission has set a hearing for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11.

June 29, 2017

Former Glen Lake Superintendent’s federal lawsuit against Glen Lake Community Schools was dismissed this week.

Federal District Judge Gordon Quist issued an opinion Tuesday, dismissing a case that was filed in October 2015 just months after Groening resigned from the top job at the county’s largest school district.

“Obviously, we are satisfied with the Judge’s opinion to discuss this lawsuit,” said Fran Seymour, president of the Glen Lake Board of Education. “The opinion is very well reasoned and supported, and we believe he reached the correct and fair result.”

Groening’s attorney Eugenia Eardley confirmed yesterday that an appeal will be filed on Groening’s behalf.

* * *

Tensions are rising in the county with an increased volume of vehicles and bicycles sharing the same road.

Some are saying that using the word “sharing” may be an over-reach.

Eric Shawbitz of Lake Leelanau vented his frustration via Facebook. He encountered a group of four bicyclist gathered at the intersection of M-22 and M-204.

“This was not a place to have a snack,” he said in a phone interview after the post. “They were four-deep into the road, impeding traffic turning toward Leland.”

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