By Jessica Mathews /

The Brighton Township Board has voted to begin meeting in-person again and pause some restrictions related to enforcing temporary use permits for businesses.

The board declared a resolution establishing a State of Emergency or SOE several weeks ago, which allowed the board and other bodies to meet remotely amid the pandemic. However, at a virtual work session Monday night, the board voted unanimously to terminate that resolution and begin meeting in person again effective at midnight. It also approved enacting a moratorium on enforcing sections of the zoning ordinance as it relates to temporary and special use permits for certain outdoors sales by retail businesses and food and beverage service by restaurants and bars through October 31st.

The measures were brought forward by board member Sam Theis, which he said aim to protect businesses and allow outdoor dining. Theis commented that he doesn’t think the current situation rises to the level of an emergency. He stated that the declaration carried additional ramifications that were not made clear; including a provision that he maintained delegated authority and resources to the Livingston County Emergency Manager. Theis said the resolution carried other things under Michigan law and the portion delegating authority to other parties was later brought to his attention.

Emergency Manager Therese Cremonte attended the meeting and clarified what she felt were some misunderstandings and possible misrepresentations. She noted the township already has its own emergency support plan, which appropriately names the township supervisor as the emergency coordinator. Cremonte said the coordinator at the local level is the person who oversees the SOE and works with the emergency manager, and that if there is an emergency or disaster declared at the local level, she doesn’t just come in and take over resources. In that case, the township resources would be tapped out and she would assist in trying to find some – meaning she has the authority to ask for others to provide, not take. Cremonte further noted the SOE declaration for the Open Meetings Act was simply to be able to continue meeting virtually, no more or less.

Theis went back and forth a bit with Township Attorney John Harris on different aspects of revoking the SOE and instituting the moratorium. The process to obtain temporary special use permits for outdoor commercial use such as dining and sales is clarified in Resolution 21-006. Harris cautioned the board about the potential implications of eliminating the SOE and allowing commercial businesses to bypass the permit process.

Harris stated if the board wanted to take the approach of getting rid of the SOE and allowing businesses to do what is permitted in that resolution, it would need to adopt an ordinance allowing them to do so. However, the board elected to bypass that process and enact a moratorium, meaning it won’t be enforcing restrictions on commercial dining establishments.

Harris noted the moratorium means there won’t be any limits on what the business can or can’t do and it’s basically a "free-for-all" since no permits can be obtained during that time.

It was stated the action would apply to at least one business, but township officials say they have fielded calls from 2 or 3 others. The board agreed it could always rescind the moratorium if businesses were being “bad actors.”

As for the board going back to meeting in person, Township Manager Brian Vick told the board they can accommodate it but will just have to plan for different situations that might arise. Dividers or partitions will also be installed. Vick said they calculated board room capacity at around 17 people with social distancing, and some overflow capability in a smaller conference room. It was stated meetings could also possibly be moved to places like the fire hall if a larger crowd is expected.