Buchanan commission votes ‘no’ on ducks, reconsiders future with Niles chamber

BUCHANAN – Topics at Monday night’s Buchanan City Commission meeting ranged from allowing people to raise ducks in the city to whether the city should continue to pay the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce for economic development efforts.

Commissioners voted no on the duck issue and were set to say no to paying more money to the Niles Chamber before pulling back on that vote. Monday’s two-and-a-half-hour meeting was again hosted virtually and was the next to the last such meeting before the commission returns to holding in-person meetings after July 1.

The request to add ducks to the city’s domestic chicken ordinance came from a local couple, John and Nicole Longmore, of North Detroit Street. They argued that ducks are cleaner and healthier birds than chickens and are also quieter and friendlier than chickens. They added that ducks produce more eggs and eggs that are more nutritional.

Their argument failed to persuade commissioners. Commissioner Mark Weedon disagreed with their views on the advantages of ducks. “When I’m thinking of the city, I’m not a 100 percent fan of the duck pond,” he said. “We already live in a city overrun by ducks.”

Mayor Sean Denison said he agreed with a comment made at the start of the meeting by former commissioner Dan Vigansky who wondered if it would open the door to allowing other animals.

“I can see both sides. I agree with what Dan said in public comments,” he said. “Where does it end, will we have domestic monkeys?”

“I would like to grow my own beef; that’s not going to happen,” Commissioner Larry Money said. “I agree with Mark and Dan, this could start into something that will be way more than what we want. We have a duck pond that is getting out of control and isn’t clean or healthy. We have an ordinance that sets the limit at six hens and I don’t think we should deviate from that.”

The Niles chamber contribution issue appeared to boil down to what commissioners saw as a lack of return for their annual investment of nearly $9,000. They said at one point that they felt their money would be better spent in supporting the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce or even the Southwest Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion began with City Manager Heather Grace reading a letter from Chamber Executive Director Jeff Rea who was unable to attend the meeting. Rea outlined several of the economic development services and opportunities the chamber offers to members.

Weedon was one of the most outspoken against continuing with the Niles chamber. He noted that Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber officials have been in Buchanan several times in recent months to offer advice on social districts and other items without Buchanan even being a member. He said they did not get help on social districts from Niles.

“That’s a substantial amount of money, and I don’t know if we have seen an impact,” he said.

Denison suggested focusing more on the Buchanan chamber and looking north to the Southwest Michigan chamber rather than east and south to the Niles chamber.

“With the expansion of the trail and doing more with the river and working more with people to the north, maybe that’s more where our future lies rather than the South Bend area,” he said.

Despite those sentiments, commissioners ended up stopping short of a definite “no” on paying the annual membership dues of $8,990 to the Niles chamber after comments from Community Development Director Rich Murphy. Murphy noted that his job is to nurture relationships and partnerships and suggested that the city’s relationship with the Niles chamber is one to strengthen rather than discard.

“You’ve changed my view some,” Denison told Murphy. “We didn’t have someone capable of fighting the good fight for Buchanan before.”

Murphy said he would report back to the commission after sharing the commissioners’ concerns with Rea and also reaching out to the Southwest Michigan Chamber to see what they could offer Buchanan as well.

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