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Posted: 05/28/14

Oakland Twp. approves year round operation for cider mill

Observer Special Writer
      Rochester Cider Mill can stay open year round, but they can't sell hard cider or distilled products.
       That was the decision made by the Oakland Township Board of Trustees meeting May 13.
       The board unanimously approved the first paragraph in an amended consent agreement that limits the use and operation of the property.
       The paragraph stated that the Rochester Cider Mill will be considered a special use under the township zoning ordinance as amended and considered to be a conforming use. Normal business activities of a cider mill and farm market shall be allowed.
       "It's not going to become an industrial facility. There's going to be no noticeable change of the facility on the outside, except, as we said, a porch and getting rid of the port-a-potties," said Eric Lipson, the cider mill's attorney. "We don't believe there's going to be any reason that would require any changes."
       The amended agreement still needs court approval. If approved, the Rochester Cider Mill can operate year round.
       The remaining paragraphs were rejected by a 4-3 vote, with Trustees Mike Bailey, Robin Buxar, John Giannangeli, and Treasurer Jeanne Langlois casting the majority votes.
       Bailey believes the request should have gone before the Planning Commission with their proposal instead of the Board of Trustees.
       "I don't think the board should be in the business of approving changes to the consent agreement without having those experts chime in with their expert opinions," he said. "I'm saying the players on this board are not the people who make that call."
       Langlois agreed with a recommendation from Township Planner Larry Nix. In the letter, Nix stated the consent judgment permits a cider mill and farm market to exist on the property and also contains restrictions as to the use based on the historic use of the property.
       "We again feel the expansion of use or operations should be fully vetted during the special use process," he wrote.
       Nix's conclusion was that there were too many unknowns to approve the proposed changes to the consent judgment.
       The board then approved a motion that declared the denial did not preclude the applicant from coming to the board in the future for a request.
       "It's very clear on the record that we're not denying the request forevermore," said Township Attorney Dan Kelly.
       The Barkham family, who owns and operates the cider mill, were happy that they could operate year round but were disappointed by the denial of the further expansion.
       "This is a step forward in the right direction and hopefully we'll continue," said Trevor Barkham.
       The board also heard a presentation from Marty Boote and John O'Meara of Environmental Consulting and Technologies on the progress made on plans to restore the Paint Creek Cider Mill. They recommended the existing pipe connection, installing a weir, which is a barrier used to alter the flow of rivers, and removing layers of sediment. The preliminary costs were estimated at $443,750.
       Supervisor Terry Gonser said the board needed to investigate further before submitting a new application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for a permit to restore the mill race. A previous application with Wade Trim's plans was considered very expensive and would be a lengthy process.
       "At this point, I would recommend that we stop and take a look at where we're at, have our attorney review all the information that's come forth, and make some determination relative to how we proceed so that we proceed in a reasonable manner before we go any further with any engineering or approaching the DEQ," he said.
       He said when the board was approached by the MDEQ in June 2013 that it would open the mill race to historical configurations and historical flows, they were much more receptive to that thought. 
       "To excavate three or four feet at this point in time, I have serious questions about either the necessity or feasibility at this time," he said.
       The board approved a motion to ask their attorney to review the township's current application to the MDEQ before proceeding with a new application to the MDEQ.
       Bridge work
       Gonser also gave an update on the Orion Road Bridge, which is scheduled to be re-built this summer. He said the bridge will be closed for demolition around June 15 and is expected to be completed and open by Labor Day.
       The official detour is up Rochester Road to Stoney Creek Road, over to Adams Road, and back down Orion Road.
       In other business, the Board of Trustees:
       • Approved the addition of one Sheriff's Deputy for Oakland Township.
       • Appointed Libby Dwyer, George Ingram, Craig Blust and Denise Franz-Wulbrecht to the Oakland Township Safety Paths and Trails Committee.
       • Approved a two-year concession agreement between the township and the Paint Creek Cider Mill.
       • Approved the cancellation of the second meeting of the month for May, June, July and August.
       • Approved a motion to request the Planning Commission to provide a review of the township's sign ordinance, including a review of electronic signage.

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