Only One Of Two Homeowners Battling Saugatuck Officials Over A Yard Signage Issue Qualifies For City Council Run
Only one of the two property owners currently battling Saugatuck city officials over a yard signage issue has met the legal requirements to get his name on the ballot to run for a city council seat in November.
John Porzondek of 790 Lake St. filed his state-required paperwork to run for one of four open council seats this fall only minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline Thursday (July 17). His life partner, James Serman, had also collected enough signatures to run in the race, but failed to show up at city hall and provide notarized documents that were required for him to be considered a candidate.
Porzondek attempted to submit Serman’s candidate paperwork for him, but when told there were some documents missing - including ones requiring a notarized signature - Porzondek told Saugatuck City Clerk Monica Looman that his life partner was working and couldn’t make it in by the deadline to provide the necessary paperwork and his signature.
Porzondek also initially turned in his candidacy paperwork to Looman without all the required signed documents, but he went home to retrieve them and was able to return and submit them under the deadline. Twenty signatures of registered Saugatuck voters are required on a candidate’s petition before it is considered valid, according to state law.
Porzondek turned in 25 signatures, but two of them were ruled invalid by Looman. Since he had the requisite number despite the two invalid signatures, he will be allowed on the ballot.
All candidates have 72 hours to rescind their petition to run if they change their mind, otherwise their name will appear as a candidate on this fall’s election ballot. The election is scheduled for November 4.
This is the second time Porzondek is making a run for a city council seat. He was elected in 2010, but only served one term before deciding not to run again.
The other candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring - and have filed all the necessary paperwork to do so - include incumbents Jane Verplank, Mark Bekken and Barry Johnson and first-time candidate Ken Trester who currently serves on the Saugatuck Planning Commission.
An ongoing issue - both legal and public relations-wise - between Porzondek and Serman and the City of Saugatuck revolves around an
awning/umbrella apparatus the two men sought to have installed and
attached to the second level of their Lake Street home.
The couple years ago erected the awning/framework, yet failed to seek approval for it through the Saugatuck Historical District Commission (SHDC), as required by law even though they had sought - and received permission from SHDC - to make other changes to their home.
As a result, the city ordered them to take the awning down which led to a protracted court fight between the two sides.
During that time, Porzondek and Serman also attempted to gain public support in an effort to legally eliminate the downtown historic district, a move that also failed.
The city won every court decision and finally the two men were forced to take the awning and its framework down.
However, the couple then positioned the awning/framework in the front of their home and attached more than a dozen anti-city, anti-historic district signs to it claiming a constitutional free speech right to do so. They say the metal framework and signs are “artwork” and as such are constitutionally protected.
City officials, however, said they have obtained a legal opinion regarding existing ordinances that gives them the authority to limit the number of signs the two men can post in front of their house.
The matter now seems to be headed once again to court as Porzondek and Serman have failed to heed a written notice from the municipality to remove a majority of the signs.
Saugatuck’s city attorney has already filed notice with the court over the matter and is awaiting a hearing date to be set.