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March 26, 2019 12:06 am

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Lake Street house with old "illegal" awning

Former City Councilman & Life Partner File Ethics Complaint Against Saugatuck Zoning Administrator

     The controversy over the legality of constructing an awning on a home at 790 Lake Street in Saugatuck is not over. 

     Life partners John Porzondek and James Serman presented an ethics complaint form to the Saugatuck City Council at its Monday meeting, accusing city Zoning Administrator Michael Clark of “gross negligence in duties” and “falsifying records.”

    “While we were in court, the zoning administrator was cooking the books, changing our zoning (from residential to commercial),” Porzondek responded when council members said they were confused about what he was talking about in his complaint.

     Porzondek was placed as a guest speaker on Monday’s city council agenda.

     In 2009, the Saugatuck Historic District Commission (HDC) denied the property owners’ application for a 23x11-foot awning on the front of their second story home at 790 Lake St.

    The awning had been installed without first being approved by the historic commission and was subsequently ordered to be removed.

     Porzondek and Serman fought back by way of legal appeals, but two years later the Allegan County district and circuit courts both upheld the historic commission’s decision.

     The men were legally ordered to take down the awning, which they did.

     In their most recent complaint, the home owners charge Clark with the following:

     “Not coming to the aid of a citizen knowing that the courts did not have the truth.”

   Additionally, the homeowners also charge Clark with overseeing the zoning change regarding their property during a time when the City of Saugutuck was engaged in both circuit court and district court proceedings on the matter of their awning.

     Porzondek told council Monday he and Serman have collected more than 200 signatures from neighbors and other residents that support their contention the city is wrong in the decision about their awning.

     “Ninety percent do not want the historic district on Lake Street,” said Porzondek.

   Serman also spoke to the issue, arguing, “The only jurisdiction the historic district commission has on awnings is on commercial structures within the district.”

     The property owners’ argument that their property was improperly and illegally changed from residential to commercial zoning is not new, nor is their contention that the commission has no regulation rights over awnings, according to city officials. 

     In May 2012, Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier provided the following response to these arguments in a letter, saying in part, “Again I have to stress this ‘assessment classification’ is for assessment roll purposes and has no relation to zoning uses nor does this classification change the city’s official zoning map in any way, shape or form.”

     Harrier also  informed the property owners, “Regardless of the zoning of your property, all exterior modifications are subjct to the review of the HDC per Ordinance.”

     The city council directed Harrier to have legal counsel review the ethics complaint and provide a response.

Former City Councilman & Life Partner File Ethics Complaint Against Saugatuck Zoning Administrator

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