Recent Column By S-D Area Business Association President Disturbs Douglas Officials
Some City of Douglas officials are upset that a recent newspaper column by Saugatuck-Douglas Area Business Association President Jim Petzing puts their city in a bad light in the eyes of the general public for something they “have zero control over.”
During a recent city council meeting, officials referenced Petzing’s April 3 column in The Local Observer in which Petzing discusses the “dire need” for a Douglas economic plan for the Blue Star Highway corridor.
In his column, Petzing expressed concern for “the unappealing” condition of the vacant parcels near Douglas’ entrance, north of exit 36 and the I-196 overpass.
“The (columnist/Petzing) doesn’t know where the boundaries of our city are,” said Douglas City Council Member Greg Harvath, noting he was concerned the column “unjustly and gratuitously” made Douglas look bad.
“The first thing that visitors see (coming off of exit 36 or coming across—south-to-north—from the overpass) is not Douglas, it is the township (Saugatuck Township). It is something we have zero control over,” said Harvath.
Harvath complained about the “blight” and opined, “We keep our city looking nice, the township should extent the same respect to us.”
Some other council members echoed his sentiments.
The overgrown vegetation, the concrete barriers (temporarily stored there by Michigan Department of Transportation for road construction), as well as the site of the former Marathon gas station, was not fitting and representative of the city—all things the township ought to fix, Douglas officials agreed.
“We don’t want it to look bad either,” Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan told The Local Observer in response.
The road - 129th Avenue - marks the border between the municipalities: the township to the south and the city to the north.
But the fact is, pointed out Sheridan, that the empty parcels being discussed constitute private property and the township has attempted for many years to improve it.
Township leaders have, for example, tried to eliminate the “eyesore” that is the Marathon sign structure by means of updating the zoning ordinance and attempting to engage the landowner.
The Marathon gas station was removed more than 20 years ago, but a dilapidated-looking carcass of a twin pole tower that was its sign remains. It is located on the north side of 129th Avenue.
“It’s commonly referred to as an eyesore by the whole community. It’s been like that for many years,” said Sheridan, adding, “We have kindly asked—I think I speak for the entire community when I say this—the landowner to take that sign down.”
Fleming West Michigan Land Co. owns the property where the twin pole tower structure is located.
To date, numerous attempts to get Thomas Fleming, president of Fleming Brothers Oil Co., to remove the sign have been in vain.
It would be very expensive for the (township taxpayers) to mount a lawsuit against the owner, and doing so would not guarantee a favorable outcome, because while the structure itself may be a public nuisance, it may not represent a safety hazard, said Sheridan.
Douglas Council Member Neal Seabert also took issue with Petzing’s commentary and expressed concern it made Douglas officials look economically irresponsible, among other issues and concerns he related.