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June 18, 2019 4:43 pm

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How Saugatuck Businesses Can Use Public Right-Of-Ways To Go To Planning Commission

     A variety of local merchants—retailers, rentals, guided tours, etc.—want to use the public right-of-way for the advantage and convenience it offers, and while Saugatuck city leaders want to accommodate them, they don’t have rules in the books to guide them on the matter.
        This was the discussion at Monday’s meeting where the Saugatuck City Council directed city staff to have the Planning Commission look at the advantages and drawbacks of having businesses occupy public right-of-ways in the downtown area.   
        One of a number of issues are promotional signs known as ‘feather flags,’ which Saugatuck officials say there may be up to six different businesses which have erected them in city right-of-ways.
        “The placement of ‘feather flags’ on the public right-of-way are not allowed; it is not that city staff doesn’t like ‘feather flags,’ it’s just that that is what is not allowed in the city sign ordinance. If businesses do not take them down, we will have to issue citations,” Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier told The Local Observer  on Tuesday.
        As for ‘feather flags’ on private property, they are regulated as attached signs in the city ordinance.
        “Some council members have expressed concerns that this specific type of signage should be allowed in the city right-of-way in the downtown business district,” notes Harrier.
        “If the council is interested in amending the city sign ordinance to allow feather flags, staff would recommend council to instruct the Planning Commission to review the current ordinance and make a recommendation to city council,” added Harrier.
        “The most requests for use of public right-of-way—part of Monday’s agenda—comes from local merchant Kit Huffman who wants to set up a table in the public right-of-way to promote a guided tour business.
        After an initial review of the issue, city staff asked legal counsel’s opinion on the matter.
        “While I believe the city has permitted the limited commercial uses of rights-of-way in the past (largely outside of the main downtown thoroughfares), it has not, on a regular basis of which I am aware, permitted the ‘downtown’ sidewalks to be used to operate regular, seasonal businesses,” Saugatuck City Attorney Jeff Sluggett of the BSM firm informed the city in a May 20 letter.
        “While I am not advocating for or against such activities, I would recommend that the council, before embarking on allowing such uses, consider referring the matter to its Planning Commission for study and recommendation in terms of how to proceed, what ordinance would need to be amended, what other communities do, etc.”
        Another public right-of-way issue definitely headed the Planning Commission’s way relates to a recent request by kayak rental Big Lake Outfitters to place a rack in the right-of-way next to the city owned Spear Street public boat launch.
        Two weeks ago city council—following a tense, yet diplomatic discussion—tabled the request, voting instead, in a 5-to-2 vote, to instruct the city attorney to draft a license agreement to allow Big Lake Outfitters to store eight kayaks on the right-of-way.
        The license agreement would mean, if approved, the kayak rental business would pay the standard annual front foot street-end license rate ($62.68 per foot rate, with the kayak rack determined to be 14 feet in length).
        But the city once again, this past Monday, tabled that matter, preferring to have the Planning Commission deal with it, and, of course, do so under the rubric of public right-of-way matters.

How Saugatuck Businesses Can Use Public Right-Of-Ways To Go To Planning Commission

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