Walbridge questions use of old school

WALBRIDGE – A non-profit group that provides resources to churches and charities was given a week to fill
out the proper paperwork or be asked to leave a village building.
At Wednesday’s meeting, council heard from board members of EnPuzzlement, a private organization that is
based out of the former Walbridge Elementary at 200 E. Union St.
Michelle Marks, board president of EnPuzzlement, said the group provides resources, such as food and
hygiene products to organizations like Cherry Street Mission, area churches and the Lake Township Fire
Belles, who run a monthly food pantry.
EnPuzzlement is made up of family and friends dedicated to service, she said. It is not open to just
anyone who may be in need of food or clothing.
“We are not a grocery store. We are not a secondhand store,” Marks said.
EnPuzzlement uses the ground floor of the former school and stores up to 1 million pounds of resources,
she said. They are not leasing the building or paying a fee to the owner. They also pay for their
utilities, the Dumpster and Internet, Marks said.
Mayor Ed Kolanko and Solicitor Brian Ballenger said the group must file a business plan with the village
and obtain a conditional use permit, within the next week.
“To remain there, they’re going to have to ask for a conditional use permit,” Ballenger said. “You’ve got
to be real specific about what you’re doing.”
Once the paperwork is filed, the planning commission will hold a hearing and review the request.
In related business before its regular meeting, council held a 20-minute public hearing on a rezoning
request for the former school building.
Several neighbors spoke against making the property commercial, instead of residential.
“I don’t want just anyone parking in the grass,” said Jessica Johnson.
Ballenger said the commercial-3 status sought by the owner allows a wide variety of uses. They include a
bar-grill, bowling alley, antiques store, doughnut store, miniature golf, pet store, photo studio or
motel.
“If the council would rezone it to commercial-3, anything commercial-3 could go in there,” Ballenger
said.
“I just hope council uses good judgment,” said former Mayor Robert Robson. “It’s in a residential area …
so tread lightly.”
A request to rezone the property was denied by the planning commission in June. The request is to rezone
the former school from residential R1-4 to commercial-3, for the proposed use of an event hall.
James and Christian Kolasinski purchased Walbridge Elementary from the Lake Board of Education in
November 2012 for $31,900.
Neither was at Wednesday’s meeting.
Council will vote on the issue, probably at the Sept. 3 meeting.