Holiday activities

TRAVERSE CITY — Peninsula Community Library welcomes Santa from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 7. Santa arrives on a new fire truck from Peninsula Township Fire Department. Enjoy caroling, crafts, cookies and music by Central High School students. Old Mission Peninsula Education Foundation is also sponsoring this event.

Birthday party

ELK RAPIDS — The Amvets 75th birthday and commanders party begin at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at 410 Bridge St. Light appetizers and music are included. Cost is $5 at the door.

Kids’ holiday event

ALDEN — The TAAG Children’s Celebration goes from 1-3:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at Helena Township Community Center. Call 231-331-4643 to learn more.

NWS seeks volunteers

TRAVERSE CITY — The National Writers Series seeks volunteers for its Battle of the Books event. Shifts go from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Traverse Area District Library. Roles include working with fourth and fifth graders and helping people at the door. Email wildtwig@yahoo.com to get involved.

Holiday singing

WILLIAMSBURG — Michigan pianist Peter Bergin leads a holiday sing-along at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Music House Museum. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students. Box office: 231-938-9300.

School receives grant

TRAVERSE CITY — Old Mission Peninsula School recently earned a $650,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Education FY 2018 Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Program. OMPS plans to supplement its academic program by investing in science, social studies, music and art. The school is also receiving funding toward technology, an outdoor learning lab, student sensory equipment and targeted literacy programs.

Court rejects Nestle plan for bottled water pump building

TRAVERSE CITY — The Michigan Court of Appeals sided against a Nestle water bottling company Tuesday in a dispute over a pumping facility needed for a significant expansion of its operation.

A three-judge panel unanimously overruled a circuit judge who had granted Nestle Waters North America’s request to put the booster pumping structure in an area zoned for agricultural uses.

Nestle said it was disappointed with the court ruling and would “evaluate our possible next steps in the legal process.”

The company has long been a target of environmental groups that oppose its pumping of groundwater in rural Osceola County for bottling with the Ice Mountain label. They contend it lowers water levels in streams and rivers, while the company says it does no harm.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality granted a permit last year for Nestle to boost its withdrawal rate from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute. That decision is on appeal before an administrative law judge.

To support the higher volume, Nestle wants to install a booster pump station along the pipeline that carries the water from its well to Evart, Michigan, where it is loaded into tanker trucks and hauled to a bottling plant in Stanwood.

The owner of the property where the company wants to put the station agreed to host it. But local township officials said the structure did not qualify as the area is zoned agricultural.

A circuit judge disagreed, describing Nestle’s proposed booster pump as an essential public service that justified a waiver.

In its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court panel said that finding was “clearly erroneous,” noting that the ordinance described “essential services” as things such as electrical substations, gas regulator stations and wastewater treatment facilities.

While water is essential for life, water bottled and sold for a profit is not — except in places with no other source, which isn’t the case with the Nestle plant, the appeals judges said. They also found that the proposed facility wasn’t eligible for a special land-use permit and did not meet the definition of a “public water supply” like tap water.

Nestle contended Osceola Township’s denial of its zoning permit was a backdoor means of preventing the company from stepping up withdrawals from its well, contrary to state law. But the appeals panel said there was no proof of that.

“Ultimately, the township is attempting to enforce its zoning ordinances,” according to the opinion by Judges Cynthia Stephens, Deborah Servitto and Amy Krause. “Enforcing a zoning ordinance is neither exceptional nor forbidden.”

The township has not taken a position for or against the Nestle expansion, said its attorney, Bill Fahey.

“Our position has been that we’re going to enforce our zoning ordinance,” he said. “From our perspective, local control can be exerted in a situation where even a big corporation like Nestle wants to impose a particular land use on a piece of township ground.”

It was not immediately clear how the court’s decision might affect Nestle’s plans for increasing its pumping. Arlene Anderson-Vincent, natural resource manager for Ice Mountain, said the company had “evaluated several options.”

“From the beginning, our goal with this request has been to reduce, as much as possible, any impact to the local community and the environment,” Anderson-Vincent said. “In addition, the structure would be a positive contribution and would provide additional tax revenue to Osceola Township.”