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Posted: 04/23/14

Plans for the Rochester
Cider Mill at standstill

by STACY SOBOTKA
Observer Special Writer
      Plans for the Rochester Cider Mill are at a standstill.
       A proposal to expand the Rochester Cider Mill and allow it to be open year-round was tabled by the Oakland Township Board of Trustees at their meeting April 8.
       The Barkham family, who own the cider mill, would like to add public restrooms, expand their porch, and start selling hard cider and fruit wines.
       A standing room only crowd had plenty to say to the board during the public hearing of the proposal.
       One complaint was about the amount of debris in the rear of the property. "(The debris) would be cleaned up. The owners are certainly willing to put a privacy fence at their expense between their neighbors," said Eric Lipsom, the Barkham's attorney. "They're hoping to make many improvements in the appearance of the facility, including doors, windows, weatherizing."
       The residents who live near the cider mill are concerned about their property values decreasing, increased traffic, the mill's residential zoning, and alcohol being sold on the premises. Attorney Michael Sugameli is representing these residents.
       "The residents are not opposed to the cider mill. Individuals have said `We take our children there.' Would they do that if alcohol is being consumed? And now you have people in the parking lot driving. This is not an alcohol location. They're asking for a significant change," he said.
       Oakland Township resident Bill Fox not only supports the project but has helped the Barkhams by leasing 150 acres of his property to them to farm apples.
       "If anything, I think the cider mill enhances the value of their properties. It brings people out here, shows people Oakland Township. It shows people how beautiful this area is," he said.
       Township Treasurer Jeanne Langlois thanked the residents for all their input.
       "The vast majority have been strongly in favor of this operation. It's really exemplifying what we consider rural in our township, and I'm happy to see that. I think now the board has a great deal of input with which to proceed," she said. "We've heard the issues from neighbors who do have concerns, and I think that forms a solid basis for us to go back to our experts, our township planning consultant and our township attorney to try to come up with an agreement that will be satisfactory to everyone."
       The announcement that the proposal would be tabled resulted in a collective groan from the audience.
       The reason for the tabling was concern about alcohol production and consumption.
       "Alcohol changes everything in my view," said Township Trusee Mike Bailey, who made the motion to table the proposal. "I think we're all in favor of the cider mill and the traditional things sold at a cider mill. I'd like to see that business case. What is the business case that says a winery and alcohol distillery is a must in order for this to be a successful venture?"
       Township Supervisor Terry Gonser wanted a timetable added to the motion.
       "I think we owe everyone an answer and I would like to see it within two weeks so that by our next board meeting we can make a decision and move forward," he said.
       The board approved the motion to table by a vote of 4 to 2.
       It was also the last meeting for Township Trustee Sharon McKay. McKay announced her resignation at the March 25 board meeting due to her moving out of state. She has lived in the township for 23 years and has served as a trustee since November 2008.
       "I enjoyed my time as a trustee and enjoyed working with all of you," she said in her resignation letter.
       The board regretfully accepted her resignation.
       "She never loses sight of the board's overriding duty and goal, which is to serve our residents and act in their collective best interests. She's thorough, thoughtful, and a good listener. I'm grateful for the perspective and contributions you have made to this group and I will miss you," said Langlois.
       After the meeting, the board presented McKay with a plaque of recognition and a framed photo collage of her home and garden in Oakland Township.
       In other business, the Board of Trustees:
       - Approved the formation of a subcommittee to come up with a request for proposals for the restoration of the Paint Creek Cider Mill's waterwheel.
       - Approved a request from the Oakland Township Fire Department to hire one paid on-call firefighter.
       - Approved a request from the Safety Path and Trails Committee (SPTC) to expand the committee by four members, recognize the SPTC as a "recommending body" and provide approximately 25 hours per month of administrative support for them.
       - Rejected a motion to appoint Anthony Scaccia as a replacement for Sharon McKay by a vote of 3 to 2. The board felt they needed additional time to consider other candidates and will make a decision in two weeks.


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