Jessica Mathews /

Some questions and concerns are being raised about a recent appointment to the Howell Township Planning Commission.

The Board of Trustees met Monday night and voted 4-3 to appoint a surprise candidate to fill a vacancy on the Commission. The official filing deadline was listed as last Wednesday. The vacancy was said to be posted in the local newspaper, on the township website, and on a door at the township hall.

The only applicant included in the board meeting packet was Andrew Hamm, who submitted an email seeking the open seat in early February. He brings over 25 years in construction experience, and is a state licensed plumber and pipefitter. Hamm said he also recently worked on the new Wastewater Treatment Plant project in the City of Howell, which was done in partnership with Marion Township and Pepsi Company. Hamm stated he was interested in being a part of planning for how the community develops in the future and felt his background would be helpful.

The surprise candidate to at least one board member was Mike Newstead, whose email was submitted to the clerk’s office at 2:59pm last Saturday. It stated that he has previous experience serving on the board and has a desire to continue to serve the township in some capacity. During the meeting, Newstead stated he served on the board from August of 2021 to last November and was the Planning Commission alternate but only got to attend one meeting - saying he “got a taste”, seen the position was open, and wanted to get back into it.

Newstead said he’s Howell graduate, served four years in the Army, and currently manages a pulmonary lung research lab at the University of Michigan – where he’s been for the past 25 years and felt speaks to his commitment. He added has a very analytical mind and likes to look at numbers and felt he would be a good fit for the position.

When contacted for clarification on the application deadline, Clerk Jean Graham provided the following response to WHMI:

“The request for the Planning Commission appointment was given a date to be included in the Board packet. Not a cutoff date for consideration. The Board packet is typically assembled Thursday and delivered via email midday to Board Members”.

Treasurer Jonathan Hohenstein raised some questions during the meeting about Hamm’s ability to serve on the Commission, due to potential interactions with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Hamm and ZBA member Tim Boal are involved in a neighbor - zoning dispute and a court case is pending. A link to a previous story by WHMI on that matter is provided. That separate case has since been closed. Hamm was found responsible for a zoning ordinance/nuisance violation, a civil infraction, during a December 2020 court hearing and ordered to move the trailer.

Hohenstein stated that he never heard whole story and he wasn’t sure if the meeting was the appropriate place to hear about it but is aware of issues on Santa Rosa Drive with a member of another board – referring to Boal. He asked Hamm if that was something that would get in the way or if there would be any issues if he should ever be appointed to the ZBA as the Planning Commission representative.

Hamm replied that one has nothing to do with the other and it would not affect anything with his position on the board or the other member. He asserted he just wants to be able to take part in the community and be a part of planning for the township – again noting his construction background and experience with drainage, runoff, and ability to offer ideas and share what he’s seen on job sites.

The vote to appoint Newstead was ultimately 4-3 – with Graham and members Bob Wilson and Harold Melton opposed. Matthew Counts is the current board representative to the Planning Commission, Wilson serves as the alternate and was among those who supported Hamm.

Wilson told WHMI he didn’t know why the board decided to appoint someone with no experience to the post – adding the other candidate was never on the agenda and submitted past the deadline. Wilson added that he personally never received Newstead’s email submittal until he sat down at the board table on Monday night.

Hamm declined to comment after the meeting.