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April 21, 2019 6:34 am

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Saugatuck Officials Agree To Consent Judgment Over Controversial Awning

The controversial awning on the second floor of 790 Lake Street in the City of Saugatuck that has been at the center of a drawn-out battle for years in the courts may have finally come to a conclusion.

The Saugatuck City Council—following an approximately half-hour closed session with Attorney Michael Bogren of Plunkett Cooney law firm—unanimously approved the city entering a consent judgment with homeowners John Porzondek and life partner Brian Serman, who in June of last year brought a lawsuit against the city and the Saugatuck Historic District Commission in U.S. District Court.

Essentially, the consent judgment would render the awning a legal structure, contradicting the city’s steadfast and long-held position the structure was in violation of a number of historic district regulations and standards, as the house is within that district.

The consent judgment would have to be signed by both the city and the two homeowners before it would become official.

The city’s move comes after many legal battles with Porzondek and Serman, who fought back intensely and consistently against both the city and even court orders, contending the historical standards were not applicable to the awning, and even more importantly, the awning is meant to protect the second-floor deck from environmental elements.

The problem began after city and historic commission officials discovered Porzondek and Serman erected the awning without seeking the required approvals despite the fact they had applied and received permission for other changes for the home.

Going back to 2009, the issue has been riddled with public acrimony and contentious debates.

At one point, in what appeared to be a vindictive move on the part of the couple, Porzondek and Serman—on the heels of one of numerous times the couple lost in the courts to the city—repurposed part of the awning to create “art,” structures they referred to as “butterflies,” placed on their front lawn and festooned with protest signs targeting city officials.

In angry response, some locals referred to the so-called “art” as a “monstrosity” that went against the spirit and aesthetics of the resort town.

City officials went further and cited the couple for violating the city’s sign ordinance, which allows for no more than three signs per household.

However, in what was the only victory the home=owning couple achieved, Allegan County District Court Judge Joseph S. Skocelas, in Sept. 3, 2014 ruling, dismissed the civil infraction the city issued the couple, saying it was unconstitutional because no law can exist to regulate the number of opinion signs a property owner can display.

Monday’s consent judgment is the city’s response to the latest legal clash with the homeowners, the June 2016 federal lawsuit which cited the 14th Amendment, saying the city’s actions against the homeowners was “arbitrary” and constituted “a taking” of the property.

The consent judgment will still have to be accepted and signed by the plaintiff to make it valid. City officials, as well as the homeowners, declined comments to The Local Observer Newspapers.

Saugatuck Officials Agree To Consent Judgment Over Controversial Awning

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