By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
At its first ever teleconference meeting March 24, the Oxford Village Council voted to suspend enforcement of a 30 day time limit for temporary signage for the remainder of the M-24 construction project. The council also passed a 90 day moratorium on a zoning ordinance banning commercial vehicles from parking in residential areas.
All Oxford Village meetings had been cancelled through at least April 5, due to COVID-19, until Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-15, which temporarily authorizes remote participation in public meetings and hearings in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
The meeting was “a little rough around the edges,” admitted Village President Joe Frost, who noted it was the first time in the village’s history to hold such a meeting. There were some technical and audio quality glitches.
The village posted information on how to call-in to the meeting the day before, on the village website and on the meeting’s agenda. However, a technical issue required an access code to call-in. Instructions on the village website and Facebook page were updated as soon as they became aware of the issue, but instructions on the agenda were outdated.
The council considered postponing the meeting for 24 hours, until it was discovered that there were at least 11 people on the line. Several members of the public indicated they were able to connect following the instructions on the website.
Frost conducted the meeting, by himself, from the council chambers at 22 W. Burdick St. Other councilmembers and village staff called in from home. Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth was absent (excused).
The meeting proceeded like any other meeting would, including the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence.
With so many people on the call, there was excessive audio feedback making it difficult to hear at times. Frost asked folks to mute their phones when not speaking.
The council voted 4-0 to put a moratorium on enforcing zoning ordinance section 7.4.8 B 2, “Temporary Commercial Signs and Banners” which states: “Such signs and banners shall not be displayed for more than a total of thirty consecutive days.”
The moratorium only applies to the time limit; the ordinance is still in effect. The moratorium will last for the entire M-24 construction project or November 15, whichever comes first.
A permit for temporary signs or banners is still required, but the $100 permit and application fee will be waived. An online fillable form permit can be found on the village website, thevillageofoxford.org. A completed permit for a temporary sign or banner must be completed and emailed to the Village offices at email@example.com.
“I think this is a good idea for our businesses to get some additional signage,” Frost said, “not only for the M-24 project, but this sudden downturn in the economic sector of our community. I think it’s a good idea to give businesses more advertising space, but not to abandon the ordinance completely.”
The council also voted 4-0 to approve a 90 day moratorium on zoning ordinance section 6.1.18B which states: “No Commercial vehicle of any kind, shall be parked in a residentially zoned or used area. Provided however, this provision shall not apply to commercial vehicles temporarily parked less than eight (8) hours in a residential area in conjunction with maintenance or service to a residential property.”
Frost said, “We understand a number of people are working remotely and need to bring their commercial vehicle to their residence.”
In closing remarks, Frost said, “The meeting tonight was an attempt to alleviate some things for our businesses and for our residents. We will continue to monitor the situation and monitor how our laws and ordinances impact our residents, as we always do.”
Public comments on marijuana
During the public comment portion of the meeting, several folks called in to comment on marijuana.
Joe Kavasity, an Oxford Township resident is opposed to allowing marijuana facilities into the community, “I understand the state voted for this, but it’s not exactly the picture I’d like to have for the community of Oxford.” He is concerned about the inconsistency between state and federal law.
Kavasity is vice-president of Technical Directions Inc., a defense contractor in Ortonville that is looking to relocate to Oxford. He says there is competition with marijuana companies that are “trying to gobble up” the buildings in the I-1 industrial zoning district along Glaspie Street.
“We are trying very hard to move in our high-tech defense company, which would employ 20-30 people,” Kavasity said.
Oxford Police Chief Mike Solwold weighed in, “As the chief of police, I am also opposed to those types of (marijuana) facilities because it’s not a matter of if, it’s when, we bring a bad element to the town and it’s certainly something we don’t need.”
The village currently has a prohibition on marijuana establishments, with a sunset provision expiring June 30, 2020.
A proposed Adult Use Marijuana Facilities ordinance to regulate marijuana businesses in the I-1 industrial zoning district along Glaspie Street has not yet been finalized.