City Commission Meeting Summary • May 24 2021

Social District Map, Photo courtesy of The City of Buchanan

Three Cheers for New Social District Plan

by Jan Wiezorek

Buchanan’s new social district plan for outdoor consumption of alcohol received a round of encouragement from commissioners and residents during a May 24 virtual meeting.

Commissioners unanimously adopted an application and maintenance plan for establishing the city’s social district downtown.

Community Development Director Rich Murphy says he worked with leaders in St. Joseph, Bridgman, and Niles to develop in Buchanan plans for outdoor consumption of alcohol within a designated area, or social district.

The district should make an impact this season and bring more people downtown, he says.

Police Chief Tim Ganus says that he “feels very confident” the social district will be safe and serve the needs of the community. He says police presence in the area will help to ensure safety.

Buchanan Mayor Sean Denison adds, “I’ve heard positive support for a social district. It’s a winning strategy and worth a try.”

Michael Rowland, president and CEO of the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, also supports the district, saying it would be “good for local business.”

The district will follow natural walking patterns, Murphy says. Participants have a traffic light for crossing Red Bud Trail at Front Street, but one crossing along Front Street has no traffic light.

Appropriate street crossings will be marked. Signs will be added to designate that individuals are entering or leaving the district. Those drinking alcohol in the district will wear wristbands. Cups will bear the name of the establishment where the beverage was purchased. 

Commissioner Cameron Downey suggested additional waste receptacles within the district.

Murphy is working with Buchanan establishments, as district licensees, to complete their state application for opting into the social district program. 

Commissioner Mark Weedon also suggests a trolley could be added to, say, take participants from River St. Joe into downtown Buchanan and bring more life and foot traffic downtown.

Master Plan Online

Speaking of walking, Buchanan also has a master plan online for public viewing at

The plan, developed with assistance from Andrews University, is approved for dissemination. The public will have 63 days to comment on the plan before a public hearing and potential adoption by the city commission possibly in late September.

Murphy says the plan opens dialogue with potential investors and business prospects. It also showcases a “reimagining” of development opportunities for Buchanan. He adds that more than 2,000 individuals have already seen the plan online.

Plan ideas include façade grants and improvements to Mill Alley, Front Street, and McCoy’s Creek Trail. Highlights also include business expansion and improving vacant buildings to enhance Buchanan’s tax rolls. 

Commissioners are planning a workshop the week of June 7 to discuss an action strategy for the master plan.  

Residents Appointed

Three-year appointments to the Design Review Committeeinclude: Chris Brayak (reappointment beginning July 1, 2020), Kevin Barker (reappointment beginning July 1, 2021), and Dan Carlson (beginning immediately through June 20, 2025).

Tree City, U.S.A.

A new auger may be forthcoming to help the Buchanan Tree Friends meet their goal of planting 100 new trees annually in the city. Richard Martin and Beth Murphy of the city’s Tree Friends support buying a new auger for the job. More auger bids are in the works, and commissioners plan to address the issue again soon.

Bits & Pieces

Public Services Director J. T. Adkerson will retire June 18. The city is posting an opening for the position, with a salary of between $60,000 and $70,000 annually.

Mayor Denison, City Manager Heather Grace, and residents Jerry Flenar and Wayne Writer were among those thanking Adkerson for his years of service to the community.

Four additional NO U-TURN signs will be placed on Front Street between Red Bud Trail and Oak Street.

A bid to resurface basketball courts at Victory Park was approved.

Commissioner Larry Money says to look soon for the new veterans’ banners downtown.

Marijuana permit renewals for Redbud Roots were approved.

Commissioners approved an expanded independent contractor agreement with Farmers’ Market Master Ashley Hanson.

City Clerk Barbara Pitcher is recommending ways to ensure best practices and enhanced productivity within the city’s boards and committees. She is developing a portal of information for handy reference.

Enjoy the concert at the Common, June 10 at 7 p.m.

The next scheduled meeting of city commissioners is June 14 at 7 p.m.

You may view the completed May 24, 2021 City Commissioner Meeting Minutes on the City of Buchanan Website.

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