Coloma | Watervliet | Michigan | Berrien County | Chamber of Commerce | Economic Development
Office: 269.468.4430
Cell: 269.757.2457
 
 
 
 
 
         
 
 
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City of Coloma

 
History
 
The early 1800's brought settlers whose first attempts to start a village along the Paw Paw River resulted in frustration. The first land owner, Job Davis, bought 150 acres at the southeastern end of Paw Paw Lake which in 1832 became the unofficial village of "Shingle Diggings." The focal point of the village was a mill that produced shingles. These were floated down the Paw Paw River to St. Joseph and then shipped out on steam freighters. By 1838, however, the shingle-making timber had been exhausted, and the Village of Shingle Diggings died out.
 
During the same era, three businessmen from St. Joseph discovered the potential of the Paw Paw River. Partners Griffith, Hoyt, and Hatch purchased property along the river just south of Shingle Diggings with plans to build a sawmill. The town called Griffith was platted with plans progressing nicely until the men realized they needed property rights on the other side of the river for the mill. Unfortunately, Mr. Hoyt, the owner of a St. Joseph Mercantile, earlier had made an enemy of a Mr. Sumner by suing Sumner in an attempt to collect a bill. Mr. Sumner learned of the plans to build a town and lumber mill, bought the property that the partners needed and obtained revenge from Mr. Hoyt for the suit -- the demise of Griffith and the lumber mill before they ever became a reality. Mr. Sumner eventually moved east along the Paw Paw River to start the village of Waterford, which later became the City of Watervliet.
 
The first permanent commercial development began in 1849 along Tannery Creek, with a water powered sawmill owned by Stephen R. Gilson (the “Father of Coloma”) and Gilson Osgood. The mill and stagecoach stop brought enough people into the area to build a small mercantile. The resulting village was named “Dickerville,” due to the bartering that settlers did for goods at the store. When the village got its own post office, the people of the town believed the name Dickerville lacked respectability. Squire Gilson remembered a lovely town in California by the name of Coloma that he had visited during his travels West. Thus, the village of Coloma was born. On December 22, 1941, the citizens of Coloma voted to change to a city form of government and the charter was adopted on April 6, 1942.

Observations
 
This small, yet friendly town covers exactly one square mile. It has its own police force and joins efforts with Coloma Township for a fire department. Coloma is a quiet town with a low crime rate. A popular place for fishing, boating, and swimming, the lake is one mile from downtown Coloma. Other attractions include Deer Forest and a local historical museum. Within the city limits there are a few lots available for commercial and industrial development. Water, sewer, and natural gas lines cover almost the entire city and can be easily accessed.
 
Part of Coloma’s main street, which is largely residential, has been zoned for future commercial development. Entrepreneurs are welcomed. The Coloma City Council works closely with Coloma Township and the neighboring communities of the City of Watervliet and Watervliet Township.
 
For several years the City lacked funds to improve its infrastructure. Recent grants, however, enabled the widening of its downtown streets and more improvements are underway. Also, the Downtown Development Authority enabled some improvements over the past twenty years, the town lost some of its businesses to an increasingly competitive retail market resulting from a mall opening 10 miles away. The upgrading of the downtown infrastructure is expected to encourage growth in the specialty business area.

Community Vision
 
In the next two decades, the community would like to:
 
A. Stimulate the growth of businesses and the economic welfare of its citizens.
B. Attract commercial entrepreneurs to the commercially zoned main street.
C. Attract more fast food restaurants off the I-94 exit.
D. Have their own motel, hotel or Bed & Breakfast.
E. Turn Coloma into an economically thriving city.

Agenda of the Community Strategic Plan
 
The City of Coloma, in cooperation with Coloma Township, Watervliet, and Watervliet Charter Township, has formed a Strategic Planning Task Force, which submitted a Strategic Plan in January 1991. The proposed strategies are as follows:
 
A. Develop a Master Land Use Plan as a cooperative venture among the four communities of Coloma City, Coloma Township, Watervliet City, and Watervliet Charter Township.
B. Support, market and promote retention of existing industrial and commercial sites.
C. Market and promote the development of potential commercial and industrial sites.
D. Maintain and expand the agricultural industry and related operations.
E. Utilize waste gas generated at Orchard Hill landfill site (as of late 1992 this gas is used for agricultural purposes in a local greenhouse).
F. Develop signage on major and minor arteries including Interstate routes 196 and 94, State route 63 (33), Red Arrow Highway, and MI-140 to promote commerce, tourism, and industry in the Coloma-Watervliet area.
G. Plan for future expansion of water and sewer services to serve the needs of existing and future residential, commercial, and industrial development.
H. Pursue improvement plans to upgrade transportation systems included but not limited to roads determined to be vital to the success of tourism related, commercial and industrial establishments in the area.
I. Expand industrial capacity energy utilities to potential industrial and commercial sites.
J. Promote and expand both rail freight and rail passenger services to enhance both local industry and tourism.
K. Provide a greater variety of retail shopping opportunities.
L. Expand the hospital services in Watervliet to further meet the needs of Coloma residents in an economically viable manner.
M. Establish a linear parkway along the Paw Paw River from Watervliet to Coloma.
N. Promote and enhance recreational opportunities of Paw Paw Lake and area waters; explore public/private use issue on Paw Paw Lake using watershed management guidelines.
O. Establish community goals to prevent or alleviate environmental hazards or nuisances, especially those that relate to surface and groundwater quality, wetlands, air quality, noise levels, and solid waste management.
P. Attract and obtain a new motel or hotel in the Coloma-Watervliet area to enhance tourism and to possibly serve as a meeting facility. Encourage Bed & Breakfast operations in the Coloma-Watervliet area.

Municipal Hall
 
Coloma City Hall
P.O. Box 329
119 North Paw Paw Street
Coloma, MI 49038
 
Phone: (269) 468-6606
Fax: (269) 468-5411

Council Meetings
 
Second and Fourth Monday of Each Month Start: 7:30 p.m. at Coloma City Hall

List of Officers
 
Mayor
Jim Polashak
Clerk
Martha Darling
Deputy Clerk
Roseann Clements
Treasurer
Cathy Megna
City Commissioner
Linda Freitag
City Commissioner
Bill Smith
City Commissioner
Mike Muenchow
City Commissioner
Harold Bragg
City Commissioner
Julia Smith
City Commissioner
Marsha Hammond
Assessor
Sue Manning