City Council: Youth Recognized, Hotel Group Presents Plan, Market Considers Rentschler Farm

 03/23/2017 - 15:09
City employee Jody Roberts and Mayor Brian Marl join Youth of the Year nominees Katie Clark, Amanda Coy, Evan Koerschner, Jessica Lyons and Michael Wolf at the recent city council meeting.

The Saline City Council meeting of Monday March 20 began with three presentations: a recognition of the Saline Student of the Year nominees, an update on plans to build a hotel on Michigan Avenue and some new plans that Farmer’s Market Manger Christine Easley hopes to try this year.

Jody Roberts, a city employee, has been the liaison for the Saline Youth Council since its inception about 15 years ago. She and City Council representative Heidi McClelland went forward with Mayor Brian Marl to honor the student nominees for 2017.

There were twelve students nominated, with several receiving multiple nominations. As Roberts read the names, Marl passed out certificates and City of Saline lapel pins.

The nominees were: Hannah Bird, Jane Burnette, Katie Clark, Claire Kunselman, Amanda Coy, Cali Harden, Evan Koerschner, Jessica Lyons, Melinda McCabe, Maeve Skelly and Michael Wolf. Of the eleven names read, five were present to receive the honor in council chambers. The winner, Riaz Clark, will be honored separately on March 24 at the former Saline Hospital building.

170320-Saline-029.jpg

Group Shows Council Plans for Hotel

Jim Junga and Mark Kuykendall, who revealed their plan for a Saline Best Western Plus Hotel and an expanded Ace Hardware store last July, came to provide an update on the hotel plans.

Accompanying the pair were Jim Haeussler of Peters Building Company, Tom Covert from Midwestern Consulting and Brad Moore, an architect with J Bradley Moore and Associates in Ann Arbor. Each added their own part of the picture.

Covert, a site design specialist, talked about the layout. He said that since the original plan they found they needed to move the hotel building a bit further to the west to accommodate the utility rerouting. They also coordinated their shared entry and grading concept with the Zippy Car Wash project.

Moore showed 3D representations of the preliminary building design with views from various sides. Since Best Western Hotels allows more freedom to innovate, they designed the building to be consistent with Saline architecture while still incorporating required elements.

The building is three stories high, but has a one-story enclosure for an indoor pool at the back (south side) of the building. There is an entry portico on the west side. A one-story portion on the east side extends the conference room and banquet center.

The building would include a variety of exterior materials including brick, stone and stucco. Council members expressed particular concern about what the north end, facing Michigan Avenue would look like.

Haeussler was intent on getting an idea of whether council approved of the design, even though such decisions ordinarily go through the planning commission first. There was a clause in the contract that requires their blessing. Attorney Scott Smith located the clause.

“The design of the hotel shall, in addition to any other approvals required under this agreement - that’s in addition to the site plan and other approvals processed with the planning commission - be subject to City Council approval to insure the hotel is of the same character and quality represented during the buyer’s presentation to the City Council on July 11, 2016,” Smith read.

In general Council members found the plan acceptable, though Dean Girbach was concerned that they might have excessive signage and several were concerned about the view from Michigan Avenue for those entering town from the east. Christen Mitchell seemingly did not like it saying it was “not what I expected to see.”

Most agreed that with proper landscaping the view from the highway would be satisfactory, so they gave the project a green light. Jim Haeussler said the plan had been to make a Best Western Plus, but they hope to upgrade it to a Best Western Premier.

170320-Saline-038.jpg

Farmers Market Considers Moving Tuesday Event to Rentschler Farm

The third presentation was about the future of the Saline Farmers Market, especially the Tuesday market. Market Manager Christine Easley had prepared a elaborate Power Point presentation that she was excited to show, but was stymied by technical problems.

Winging it, she began by talking about “the dilemma of the Tuesday market.” The market has been located in the library parking lot where the asphalt gets very hot, the wind blows over tents customers have been too few and vendors are leaving.

More importantly three critical vendors informed her that they would leave unless something changed. This left her with the decision to cancel it or fix it.

She suggested an alternative plan, to hold the Tuesday market at Rentschler Farm. She talked with the Saline Area Historical Society who manage the farm and they were supportive.

She said that the farm setting could make it a destination market, a bit like Cobblestone Farmers Market in Ann Arbor where people come to hang out, not just to shop. On the farm, children could pet the animals and families could have picnics on blankets.

The farm would also include an educational element in that young visitors could learn about where their food comes from. Rentschler garden keepers could perhaps offer some of their produce for sale as well.

She would also like to include music, though she has little money to pay musicians. A food truck or two could be present.

Council members were enthusiastic about Easley’s farm plan, but were concerned about parking. Nevertheless, they felt that that could be worked out. They told her to go for it.

Easley also told about plans for the Saturday market. She plans to introduce a cooking demonstration by Salt Springs Brewery beginning on Saturday April 22.

She also said they were taking steps to make payment easier for various types of customers. For example, she has purchased an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) machine that is wireless so customers can use Bridge cards from any of the market locations. She is also finding ways to enable the use of credit cards.

She is considering children’s craft programs and events for the Saturday market and hopes to bring in musicians who will work for free or nearly free.

Just as she was finishing her presentation the computer came on showing a very attractive first slide she had hoped to show. It was too late to show the rest of her slides. Perhaps it will be made available on line.

Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.