By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE — Location, location, location.
That was the main issue the Lincoln Township Planning Commission heard from residents Monday night during a public hearing concerning a proposed enclosed ice rink.
Planners postponed a decision until next month’s meeting after a lengthy public hearing in which nearly 30 people expressed statements of opposition and support. The commission tabled the decision in order to find out how the rink would affect traffic and the adjacent property values of homeowners.
The proposed rink, at 4137 Cleveland Ave. on the southeast corner of the Cleveland Avenue/Glenlord Road intersection, needs a special land use permit to operate. The site is in a low density residential use district.
Developer AJ Glowacki gave a presentation on what the rink would be used for and why he chose the 10-acre site near Stevensville.
“I live here. I want my tax dollars to go to my district,” he said. “It’s also a central location between St. Joseph and Lakeshore. I’m trying to do something for my community. Hockey is already its own community. I think a rink in this area can only make the community stronger.”
With more than 75 people in attendance, Glowacki explained the plan. In addition to hockey, the rink could be rented out for figure skating, broom ball, curling and birthday parties.
The facility would be between 35,000 and 40,000 square feet, Glowacki said. He did not provide an estimate of what the facility would cost.
“We are giving other towns thousands of dollars that could be spent here,” Glowacki said. “Hockey is the busiest during this area’s slowest time of the year. This could change that.”
The rink would have a connected parking lot with about 200 spaces. It would have room for about 350 people – on and off the ice. Nearly half the 10-acre property would be green space. Glowacki said the rink would have concessions and a pro shop that sells hockey equipment.
The hours of operation for the rink were heavily discussed. Glowacki said he expected most of the business to be between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. Several residents felt 1 a.m. was too late for lighting.
Glowacki said he has already spoken with the Berrien County Road Commission, which told him the rink would have no issues with traffic in the area.
The area is now served by the Howard Ice Arena in St. Joseph, which is a covered, open air facility. Local ice enthusiasts for years have lobbied the city of St. Joseph to enclose that facility, but the city has balked due to the high cost of doing so.
Mike Desmet, who lives a few houses south of Glenlord Road on Cleveland Avenue, argued that planners should keep residential zones residential.
“Everyone here who is for this arena lives nowhere near this area,” Desmet said. “Now you’ve got to talk to people who live there.”
Brian Lee said he started skating in 1988 when he lived in Berrien Springs. Lee, now a St. Joseph resident, was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2002 NHL Draft and said it almost didn’t happen because his parents were forced to drive him across North America for tournaments.
“This did not exist when my parents introduced me to the sport,” Lee said. “As far as value goes, players and their families spend money in other town’s gas stations, hotels and restaurants.”