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Economic Development

9/15/2018: Napier sidewalk plan calls for three-lane road

The recently completed Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan calls for the heavily trafficked road to be changed to three lanes and for bike lanes to be added.

A draft of the final report is now complete and contains a series of recommended improvements along auto-oriented Napier Avenue. The portion of the street in question – between the St. Joseph River and I-94 – is considered an important east-west transportation route in Berrien County due to its proximity to the highway and M-139 commercial district.

9/11/2018: Downtown, harbor studies on tap for St. Joseph

Herald Palladium -  Commissioners also heard a proposal from the Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Project to hold meetings to discuss development along the area’s waterfront.

The recommendations include a one-day open session Sept. 19, and a three-day “charrette” for community members to offer ideas for improvements, to be held Oct. 9-11, all starting at 6 p.m. All gatherings will take place at Kinexus, 499 W. Main St., Benton Harbor.

Don Carpenter, project manager, said it will be “a grassroots effort to come up with a shared vision” for the harbor.

9/9/2018: Pumping life back into Pipestone Environmental restoration tied to economic revitalization

Herald Palladium - Clean a creek, restore a commercial corridor. Those are the ultimate goals of the project to revitalize both Ox Creek and the area along Pipestone Road, being undertaken with the leadership of the Berrien County drain office and the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

Don Brookfield, owner of Brookfield Dodge, at 1845 Pipestone Road, is working on plans to add rain gardens and other amenities on his lot to better manage water flowing from his lot into the nearby creek.

8/6/2018: Effort underway to restart harbor planning process

Herald Palladium - “The idea is to facilitate long-term sustainable strategies that benefit Michigan’s Great Lakes coastal communities,” he said of the initiative, which is funded through the Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University and the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.

The initiative seeks to continue the work of the Twin Cities Harbor Study, which was completed by the Andrews University Department of Architecture and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in 2015.

2/9/2018: Sidewalks, restaurants top Stevensville Master Plan

Herald Palladium- Investing more in sidewalks and attracting more restaurants were the two highest requests as planners put together the Stevensville Master Plan.

On Wednesday, village trustees approved distributing the plan’s draft for public comment.

“We want everyone to look at it and public comments will be presented at a public hearing,” said Ryan Fellows, associate planner with Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the agency hired to assemble the plan.

11/8/2017: Commission developing strategy for economic development

In spite of the many differences between residents of Cass, Berrien and Van Buren counties, a strong, resilient economy that helps draw and retain talented professionals is a rising tide that lifts all boats in southwest Michigan.

To that end, governmental and business leaders across the three counties spent the better part of 2017 working with members of Southwest Michigan Planning Commission to develop a strategy on how to achieve that goal. Now, local residents will have a chance to share their thoughts and opinions on how to improve the region’s economic fortunes as well.

The SWMPC is seeking public comment on its recently completed Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy report, a document that details a shared economic vision and plan for the tri-county region. From now through Dec. 1, people may submit feedback on the plan, by emailing SWMPC Associate Planner Ryan Fellows at fellowsr@swmpc.org or by mailing the SWMPC office 376 W. Main St., Suite 130, Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651.

A copy of the CEDS report can be found online at www.swmpc.org/ceds.asp 

7/18/2017: City hesitant to commit funds for post-Palisades study

The Herald Palladium- The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners, Kinexus and Southwest Michigan Planning Commission are seeking a federal grant to pay for a study to examine the impact of the plant’s expected closure in October 2018, and then come up with a plan to help the region adapt to any changes brought about by the economic loss of jobs and property tax revenue.

6/6/2017: Upton: Dredge work never a sure thing

Herald Palladium - Standing next to a large gravel pile that will someday be used for I-94, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton praised everybody who helped to secure funds to dredge the St. Joseph Harbor. Upton, R-St. Joseph, held a press conference Monday to discuss his recent work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, area dock owners, and community leaders. He was joined by state Sen. John Proos, St. Joseph Mayor Mike Garey and others involved in the effort.

10/30/2016: Living large in SW Michigan

Herald Palladium - How livable is your community?

Does it have affordable housing, grocery stores that sell fresh food, places to enjoy exercise and cultural activities? What is the quality and accessibility of health care? Does the community accommodate all age groups?

These are some of the questions Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council is encouraging leaders and residents to ask as they plan for their futures.

“We’re promoting the Three As – awareness, appetite for change and action – big or little,” said Lynn Kellogg, part of the Strategic Leadership Council’s Livable Communities committee, which is launching a public awareness campaign with presentations to elected officials and other movers and shakers.

10/19/2016: One particular harbor

Peter Colovos, with Prairie Real Estate Group, says the Twin Cities’ waterways have for too long been a barrier between communities.
With the formation of a Harbor Conservancy to discuss the future of the waterfront and surrounding area, Colovos sees the opportunity to build bridges that will benefit everyone.
Last week Colovos formally presented the proposal to St. Joseph’s city commissioners, which have agreed to participate, along with Benton Harbor, St. Joseph Township and other public and private stakeholders, including the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Whirlpool Corp. and Harbor Shores.

Environmental

9/9/2018: Clearwater revival Plans call for cleaning up Ox Creek and revitalizing Pipestone corridor

Herald Palladium- It’s the dirtiest creek in Southwest Michigan, and one of the  dirtiest in Michigan, meandering through an ocean of concrete and asphalt around Pipestone Road that allows rain water and pollutants to pour into the tributary.

It’s Ox Creek, which flows through Benton Township and Benton Harbor until it reaches the Paw Paw River, which runs into the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan.

When Ox Creek is flowing fast from storm run-off, it only takes two hours for contaminants to reach the lake and beaches, according to Christopher Quattrin, Berrien County’s drain commissioner.

8/9/2018: Ox Creek Watershed now online

The website for the Ox Creek Watershed has gone live.

Visit www.sustainoxcreek.org for information on the Ox Creek Watershed Improvement Plan and what steps are being taken to improve water quality, according to a press release from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

5/10/2018: Guarding the Great Lakes

Herald Palladium- Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, grew up in northeastern Ohio and remembers when the river near his home ran blue or orange, depending on what kinds of industrial waste were being dumped in the water that day. Speaking as part of the Clean Water Summit, hosted by Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum at Weko Beach Wednesday, Allan also recalled that 40 years ago bulldozers were removing piles of dead fish from Great Lakes shorelines. Before the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, there was “not much” in place to protect the environment, Allan said.

11/11/2017: Ribbon cut on Syndicate Park project to preserve sand dunes, houses

Herald Palladium- The group met Thursday at the foot of the dune for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments made so far to prevent the dune from encroaching

further into the subdivision.

11/10/2017: Valuable dunes need to be protected, experts say

Herald Palladium- The dunes along western Lake Michigan are a gold mine for recreation, tourism and quality of life for residents, and need to be preserved for future

generations, according to experts speaking at the Heritage Museum in St. Joseph Thursday.
At a presentation titled “Loving Our Dunes to Death? Balancing Enjoyment with Conservation,” panelists discussed recent research into the value that Michiganders
place on these unique geological features.
We have the largest freshwater dunes in the world, said Robert Richardson, a professor of environmental economics at Michigan State University.

9/5/2017: Clean up local beaches Sept. 16

Herald Palladium- No matter what part of Southwest Michigan you live in, there is a place to get out and volunteer on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The annual September Adopt-a-Beach event, a day dedicated to volunteering and cleaning up Great Lakes beaches and shorelines, has five different beaches in Berrien County to volunteer at.

September Adopt-a-Beach is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, so volunteers will join millions of people cleaning up shorelines all over the world.

8/17/2017: A paddling we will go

Herald Palladium - 

More than 20 state officials and water trail advocates paddled down part of the Paw Paw River on Wednesday from Watervliet to Coloma to draw
attention to the economic impact the trails have on local communities.
“Water trails, just like land-based trails, are important recreation corridors, transportation corridors,” Bob Wilson, executive director of Michigan Trails & Greenways
Coalition, said before the paddle. “But they also help to drive economic impacts within the community. This is a great model, which is one of the reasons that we’re
here today.”
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and Two Rivers Coalition hired contractors and trained volunteers to clear the river of blockages earlier in the summer.

7/17/2017: Well water testing night scheduled for July 31 at Chikaming Township Hall

Harbor Country News - 

A well water testing night is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, July 31, at Chikaming Township Hall, 13535 Red Arrow Highway,
Harbert, the Berrien County Health Department announced. The public is invited, and you do not need to be a Chikaming Township resident.
The department’s Ken Priest will give a presentation on septic systems and the importance of proper maintenance. Admission is free as is the
water testing. Light refreshments will be ordered. Attendees will be entered into a drawing to win two follow-up tests from the department.

7/7/2017: Clearing the way

The Herald Palladium- When the emerald ash borer attacked the ash trees a couple years back, it created a lot of dead trees along the Paw Paw River.
Over the years, those trees, not counting the ones that occasionally fall during storms, fell into and across the water, making large portions impassible for area paddlers.
But last week the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and the Two Rivers Coalition (TRC), announced that work over the last couple of months to clear segments of the river is complete and ready for public use.
TRC President Kevin Haight said a lot of work went in to hiring contractors and getting trained volunteers out in the water to clear the blockages.

7/5/2017: Cover crop forum slated for July 26

Crop nutrition expert John Kempf will be featured speaker for the July 25 “Working with Cover Crops Field Day” in Niles Township, the Berrien Conservation District announced.
The event will be 4-9 p.m. at 11025 M-140 – Carl Wagner III’s farm.

Kempf, of Orwell, Ohio, is the founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), a leading crop nutrition consulting company, the conservation district reported.
Also on tap will be Marcy Hamilton of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. She will present on opportunities for farm renters and owners in the Ox Creek and St. Joseph River watersheds to improve water quality with USDA cost share assistance.

7/3/2017: Rain garden offers beauty, function

A rain garden full of flowers and greenery soon will replace almost 20 parking spots at Wightman and Associates along Pipestone Road in Benton Township.
While the rain garden will be pretty, it also will filter pollutants out of rainwater runoff from the parking lot before it flows into the stormwater system and, eventually, into Ox Creek, said Ben Baker, landscape architect with the engineering, surveying and landscaping company.
The Wightman project will minimize pollution and demonstrate to other property owners what they can do on their own land, said Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission in Benton Harbor.
“That way, we have something right here in the water shed, right in the mall area, that people can come and see,” she said.
The project is being paid for in part by a state grant. Hamilton said she has been working with property owners in the mall area and along the Pipestone Road corridor, which includes Celebration Cinema, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart and Meijer.

7/3/2017: Tour slated for Covert Twp. dune property

Preserve the Dunes will host a guided tour Saturday of the Ross Coastal Plan Marsh Preserve in Covert Township, the organization announced. The event will be 10 a.m. to noon.
“This is your chance to experience the preserve with an expert scientist who will be able to tell you why the area is unique and show you the rare plants and wildlife found there,” Marcy Hamilton, president of Preserve the Dunes, stated in a news release.
Nate Fuller, conservation and stewardship director with the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, will lead tour participants on a hike through the unique property. After the hike and tour, Preserve the Dunes will give away a framed print of a dune landscape by local artist Randall Higdon.
For the tour, attendees will meet at the preserve entrance along County Road 376 (44th Avenue) across from Dune Lake Campground. Attendees must dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes or boots and bring bug spray and drinking water. The event is rain or shine. For questions, contact Marcy Hamilton at 925-1137, Ext. 1525.

3/30/2017: Saugatuck commits to becoming part of national water trail

Saugatuck could soon become a stop on a national recreational water trail.

With a letter of support, the city committed itself to being a stop on the proposed trail. The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission is working to get municipalities on board to submit an application to the National Park Service for a National Recreation Trail designation of the Lake Michigan Water Trail.

The trail currently goes through three states, covers Chicago’s lakefront and the entire coast of Indiana to New Buffalo in Michigan. The goal is to promote coastal public access by linking regional water trails to form a statewide water trail system along every mile of the Great Lakes shoreline.

“This will grant that extension to continue the trail all the way from Chicago to Manistee,” said Kristopher Martin, an associate planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

2/9/2017: Too much concrete

Herald Palladium - Almost 50 business owners, landlords and elected officials gathered around maps Wednesday at the Orchards Mall in Benton Township to discuss ways to reduce the amount of pollution running into Ox Creek from the mall district.
“Ox Creek is not very healthy,” said Marcy Hamilton, a senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.
She said the problem is that most of the wetlands, which cleaned rain water before it entered the creek, have been filled in or built over. She said that when the mall and surrounding businesses were built decades ago, the idea was to get rain water off the parking lots and into the creek as fast as possible.

10/30/2016: On the nose: Dogs No. 1 at finding No. 2

A company that has trained dogs to recognize the smell of human fecal bacteria has been sniffing out sources of water pollution nationwide, discovering broken sewer pipes, leaking septic tanks and illegal sewage discharges, to the delight of environmental groups and government agencies.

10/17/2016: Tour tracks water from toilet to tap

Water is an essential element to life, which is why Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum created the Full Circle Tour.

Marcy Hamilton, a Sustainable Business Forum board member, said they wanted to make a signature event that would focus on clean water and craft beers.

“Most people don’t think about what it takes to clean the water we flush down the toilet,” Hamilton said. “We want to provide you with an opportunity to see how the water is cleaned to keep our rivers, beaches and Lake Michigan safe and healthy for us to enjoy. Then we will visit The Livery to enjoy water that has been crafted into beer while the owner and head brewer takes us on a rare behind the scenes tour of the beer making process.”

10/15/2016: Gravy for a dune

Thanks to two $50,000 grants – one a surprise – work to stabilize the dune straddling the North Point Land Preserve and Syndicate Park subdivision may begin next spring.
The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners has authorized County Administrator Douglas Cultra to sign a grant agreement with the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program for $50,000.
“It’s going to preserve a pristine dune,” Cultra said. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”

General

8/21/2017: Southwest Planning Commission wants to cut board members

Herald Palladium- That’s the draft proposal on the table for the planning commission that serves Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties and provides guidance in areas of transportation, economic development, environmental issues, digital mapping and master and recreational planning. The commission gets most of its funding from federal and state sources, with the remainder coming from county and local governments.

8/5/2017: Michigan's Longest Garage Sale scheduled for next weekend

Herald Palladium - People who love searching for hidden treasures will want to traverse Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale along the U.S. 12 Heritage Trail Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday,

Aug. 13.

Transportation

4/4/2018: Planners want more feedback on Napier Avenue

Herald Palladium - 

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, having hosted a well-attended Napier Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan public open house in March, is seeking additional public feedback.

The Napier Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Plan is a community-driven plan to transform Napier Avenue into a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly roadway. The planning team would like to hear from as many area residents, business owners, and users of the road as possible in order to gather a more complete picture of specific issues along the corridor. Web-based and paper surveys are available which allow residents to give their feedback.

3/27/2018: Napier pedestrian plan under review Residents provide input at open house

Herald Palladium - In a packed room at the Overflow Church, more than two dozen people came together Monday to discuss a Benton Township street that’s been a problem for years.

AECOM, an engineering firm hired to gauge residential preferences regarding sidewalks along Napier Avenue, held an public open house at the Benton Township church to discuss the Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan.

Jeromie Winsor, an AECOM senior planner, led a presentation about Napier and provided statistics on the troubled roadway.

3/20/2018: Napier Ave. safety under the microscope SWM Planning Commission to hold 'open house' meeting

Herald Palladium - 

Adding sidewalks and bike ways to improve safety along Napier Avenue will be the topic of a public open house meeting Monday.

The meeting to discuss the Napier Avenue Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Overflow Community Church at 300 E. Napier Ave. in Benton Township. Presentations will be held at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Denise Cook, St. Joseph Township manager and Napier Steering Committee member, said the corridor lacks sidewalks and crosswalks for the majority of its length.

1/26/2018: Bailing out Berrien Bus

Herald Palladium- 

Berrien Bus, the county’s public transportation system, continues to sputter along, and is in need of a major overhaul, the Board of Commissioners were told Thursday.

It’s not the first time that commissioners have been informed of the dire straits faced by Berrien Bus. A 2014 report said public transportation across the county is inadequate and inefficient. The study recommended a consolidation of the county’s operation with Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority (serving Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and surrounding areas), and Niles and Buchanan Dial-a-Ride.

1/23/2018: Napier sidewalks get fresh look

Herald Palladium- 

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and several municipalities are focusing on the lack of sidewalks along the Napier corridor in Benton and St. Joseph townships.

Napier, which has four lanes and a 40-mph speed limit, is getting more attention following the death of a 21-year-old St. Joseph man who was struck and killed by a car along the busy road on Friday night.

Brian Elftmann was walking westbound along Napier when he was hit by a car heading the same direction.

12/25/2017: The Green Mile plus 57 Trail boosters excited about NB-Chicago plan

The Herald Palladium- The Marquette Greenway is a planned 58-mile trail from Chicago’s Calumet Park through northwestern Indiana to downtown New Buffalo. About 28 miles of the 10-foot wide path have either been built or funded.Marcy Hamilton, senior planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said her organization has been a “convener” in the process – helping bring people together, including the many units of government along the Michigan route.

5/10/2017: Building a better bus system

Herald Palladium- 

Transportation experts have looked under the hoods of Berrien County’s four bus systems and found operations that are expensive and inefficient, with limited hours and routes that miss a large chunk of the population.

These planners think that consolidating the systems – Berrien Bus, Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority, and Niles and Buchanan Dial a Ride – would result in a service that reaches more residents for less money.

The first two of four information sessions held by Connect Berrien, to share the study and gather ideas, were held at the Niles library Tuesday. The sessions will be repeated from 5:30-7 pm. today at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, 376 W. Main St., Benton Harbor; and 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at the New Buffalo Township Library, 33 N. Thompson St., New Buffalo.

4/30/2017: Public can help steer bus plan

Berrien County transportation planners want to hear from residents on a proposal to consolidate four bus systems into a single operation, which they believe can serve more people for less money.

Connect Berrien will hold four meetings: 3-4:30 p.m. and 5-6:30 p.m. May 9 at the Niles Library, 620 E. Main St.; 5:30-7 pm. May 10, at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, 376 W. Main St., Benton Harbor; and 5:30-7 p.m. May 11, at the New Buffalo Township Library, 33 N. Thompson St., New Buffalo.

The meetings are an opportunity for residents to hear the rationale for consolidating the four systems – Berrien Bus, Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority, and Niles and Buchanan Dial a Ride – and to offer their thoughts on the types of services they want, said Dan Fette, Berrien County community development director.

3/20/2017: Phase two planning for cross-state trail kicks off

Developers working to complete the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail met Friday morning at the Niles Township Hall to kick off phase two planning of the 1.2 mile trail, which will join Michigan with Indiana and Niles with Niles Township.

2/28/2017: Indiana-Michigan trail construction expected to begin in 2018

To protect the threatened northern long-eared bat, construction to the Indiana-Michigan River Valley trail will not begin until 2018 — though bats are only one factor to the delay, experts say.
Last week, the Niles Township Board of Trustees discussed the bi-state trail’s progress during a meeting. Trustee Chris Vella announced that she had heard that construction would be impeded due to bats.


During a follow up with Marcy Hamilton, the senior planner for the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, who wrote the grant for the trail, Hamilton said that bat activity was only one part of the reason that construction will not begin this year.

2/14/2017: Community leaders push for better public transportation

Improving the education and health of people in Berrien County will only happen if residents have reliable transportation so they can get to the services they need.
That was a recurring theme as 13 community leaders talked Monday about work being done by Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council (MGSSLC).


“Mobility is one of the key enablers to the American dream,” said Pat Brandstatter, a member of the Quality of Life Group and president of Kruger Plastic Products in Bridgman.

1/3/2017: Gearing up for road repairs

Herald Palladium- People traveling in Michigan will be paying more at the pump in 2017, but highway experts are pleased that the additional revenue will begin to fund long-delayed road repairs.
According to their surveys, they really need it.
As of Jan. 1, the state gasoline tax increased by 7.3 cents and the diesel tax went up 11.3 cents, putting both to 26.3 cents per gallon. This gives Michigan the fifth-highest gas taxes in the nation.

12/15/2016: Niles Trailhead, trail extension recommended for state funding

Thanks to a grant recommendation announced by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board Friday, the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail could be the first bi-state trail to connect Michigan and Indiana communities.
Trail goers could also soon enjoy a brand new Niles trailhead located along the St. Joseph River in downtown Niles.

12/13/2016: State funding infuses River Valley Trail projects

South Bend Tribune - It looks like two Niles area trail projects connected with the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail will be getting state funding after an announcement Friday from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Niles city trailhead project and the River Valley Trail extension project in Niles Township are both expected to be funded through the DNR’s Natural Resources Trust Fund grant program next year. The trust fund board’s recommendations are expected to be accepted and funded by the Legislature early next year.

That board is recommending more than $47.6 million worth of projects in 2017, including $19.9 million in development projects like the two in the Niles area and $27.7 million in land acquisition projects.

Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Senior Planner Marcy Hamilton worked with both the city of Niles and Niles Township on their grant applications. She reported that the two projects received the top numerical scores of all development project applications around the state.

12/2/2016: Commissioners back county-wide bus proposal

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners on Thursday endorsed creation of a county-wide public transportation system, but the day the buses roll is still a long way down the road.

The endorsement is the latest move to consolidate existing transportation systems, including Berrien County’s Berrien Bus, into a more efficient operation that will reach more residents.

Community Development Director Dan Fette reported earlier this year that Berrien Bus could be out of money in two to three years. He said that the program, along with transportation systems in Benton Harbor, Niles and Buchanan, leave out large sections of the county. A 2014 report recommended consolidation of existing systems.

This page last updated on 9/26/2014.
 
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  
 
 
 

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