Saugatuck Councilman Spangler Suggests Hiring Expert To Address City's Historical District Questions
A request by Saugatuck City Council Member Jeff Spangler at Monday’s meeting to hire an expert to determine—in a precisely detailed and determinate manner—whether or not the home at 790 Lake St. is a contributing historical resource may once and for all fix what has become a thorn in the side for the City of Saugatuck.
For more than five years lifetime partners John Porzondek and James Serman and the city have been engaged in numerous legal wranglings involving an “umbrella/awning” on the home’s second floor exterior as well as a conspicuous display of protest signage on a metal structure on the home’s front yard.
“They (the Saugatuck Historic District Commission (HDC) were making decisions with the information they had at the time,” said Spangler about the HDC’s creation in the mid-1980s and the various ordinances relative to historical value born out of it.
“The more information they (HDC) have, the better they will be equipped,” said Spangler.
Porzondek and Serman’s 790 Lake St. residence is within the city’s historical district and falls under the purview of the HDC. As a result, all exterior modifications and remodeling are subject to the review of the HDC as dictated by city ordinance.
The district constitutes, for the most part, the neighborhoods surrounding downtown, including Lake Street and the Mill Pond area. It is comprised of contributing and non-contributing resources.
The non-contributing resources must abide by specified local standards via the city’s Historic District Guidelines and specified national standards as defined in the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
The contributing resource standards are more stringent as they follow all the guidelines set forth by national standards.
A 2010 study conducted by the engineering and planning firm Williams & Works determined 790 Lake St. was a contributing resource. However, that study was cursory and preliminary in nature,as clearly stated by the person who conducted the study: Community Planner and Project Manager Lynée Wells of Williams & Works.
“This (determining which properties were contributing and which were not) was difficult in some instances. Many of the homes were straightforward and others were difficult to determine due to a lot structures that had window and door replacements or had aluminum siding,” Wells said at the time.
And although several properties fronting Water and Lake streets are non-contributing, Wells recommended keeping the existing district boundaries, citing the importance of visual continuity and a contiguous district.
The 2010 Wells study was prompted by a campaign, part of which included a petition signed by several Lake Street residents, that was spearheaded by Porzondek and Serman that called on the city to take Lake Street out of the historical district rolls.
Wells recommended a more thorough study and analysis before making historic district boundaries and their contributing and non-contributing properties official.
However, that kind of study does comes with plenty of potential problems, officials noted.
“(A more rigorous and more in-depth study at 790 Lake St.) could be setting a precedent. Other property owners in the district will be asking: ‘Am I a contributing resource?” said Saugatuck City Council Member Barry Johnson.
And Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier said, “It’s an expensive enterprise, potentially costing the city up to $100,000 (to conduct a survey of the entire district).”
Nevertheless, he also noted, “I’d rather spend a little money now rather than more later (with potential legal battles with the landowners),” said Harrier.
Porzondek and Serman have repeatedly lost state and court decisions in their fight to place an awning/umbrella over a second-story porch of their home.
If, upon further research, the house is found to be non-contributing, then the numerous obstacles that the landowners have encountered thus far in their endeavor may come to be a thing of the past.
The most recent episode of that long legal struggle involves Allegan County District Court Judge Joseph Skocelas whol ruled on Jan. 28 that Porzondek and Serman’s awning/umbrella apparatus was in violation of an earlier court order.
Skocelas ordered them to take the fixture down by Feb. 7th or face fines and/or jail time.
The couple abided by the court order and removed it that day.
The homeowners were also ordered to reimburse the city for its attorney fees and other related costs in the amount of $1,295.90.