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June 18, 2019 4:42 pm

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City Leaders Create New Saugatuck Downtown Snow & Ice Clearance District

Touted as a mechanism that will finally address a long-occurring problem as well as encourage downtown property owners and businesses to do their part, Saugatuck City Council Monday night established a snow and ice clearance district covering areas of concentrated pedestrian traffic.

Previously, on November 13, the city council, in a 4-3 vote, passed a motion to amend the city ordinance giving the city the open door to be able to establish the district.

And at the last regular meeting, on November 27, the council postponed the district resolution, citing the need for further discussion.

The establishment of the Downtown Snow and Ice Clearance District allows the city to charge any property owner for reimbursement of expenses incurred by the city in removing snow or ice from any section of sidewalk within the district, including hourly costs for labor, $30.75; equipment; material, $15 (a 40-pound salt bag); and administrative, $25; costs.

Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier said he took his cues in the drafting of the new regulation from the City of Charlevoix, MI., citing that that city used it as a “tool when needed.”

“If everybody (the council body) can agree what the expectations are going to be and how to enforce it, we (the city) are going to be successful going forward,” said Harrier.

Saugatuck Mayor Ken Trester responded with, “I see this (the establishing of the district) as a tool for handling extreme situations; this is not about regulating every snowflake on the sidewalks.”

Saugatuck City Council Member Bill Hess concurred, describing the new regulation as a similar to the city ordinance regulating tall, unmowed grass.

“It’s an ordinance we can test out. If we have a serious problem (with those that egregiously neglect clearing snow and ice), at least we have a mechanism to address it now.”

However, Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken did not vote for the measure, being the only dissenting voice.

“It gives the impression the city does nothing about snow and ice clearance,” he told The Local Observer following the meeting.

“I am not against doing something about the problem, but I don’t think this is the right solution.”

The Saugatuck Public Works Department regularly plows the snow from sidewalks after snowfalls, but the city does not have the manpower nor the resources to be consistently clearing snow throughout an entire day nor does it have the facility to take care of icy patches when snow thaws then freezes, noted officials.

Even before Monday’s new ordinance passage, the responsibility, per city regulation, of clearing snow and ice from sidewalks in front of their building, falls to property owners.

Or—as city council discussed Monday—it falls to business owners whose lease agreement with their landlord dictates they are responsible for the “maintenance” of the property they are leasing.

However, city officials said that enforcing such a rule was tricky (i.e. the difficulty of issuing civil infractions) before Monday’s new ordinance.

The district has the following boundary: both sides of Butler Street between Culver Street and the southern boundaries of Village Square Park, both sides of Mason Street and Hoffman Street between Water Street and Griffith Street and both sides of Culver Street between Butler Street and St. Josephs Street, if extended.

City officials reiterated they are hopeful property owners and business owners will be responsible and take care of snow on their property.

City Leaders Create New Saugatuck Downtown Snow & Ice Clearance District

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