By Gari Voss
Allegan’s City Council celebrated new businesses in their downtown while splitting the vote on dissolving the Historic Commission.
After approving previous Minutes, the Council did a second reading of Ordinance 510 to repeal Chapter 13 – Historic Preservation of the City of Allegan Code of Ordinances. The City’s Historic District Commission conducted a year-long study to determine the feasibility of eliminating the Historic District Commission then deciding how to monitor the historic district structures of the city using less stringent guidelines.
Residents living in or on the fringes of Historic Districts spoke to their desire to retain the Commission, but expressed that a careful update of the Ordinance should be done to protect the preservation of historic structures in the Districts while being more lenient on structures that have no real historical significance.
The vote to repeal Chapter 13 was split at 3 aye and 3 nay. This brought a request from the Council that those in attendance take applications to fill the 4 vacant positions on the Historic District Commission. The first major task of the Commission may be the rewriting of the codes relating to the “preservation” of Allegan’s history.
Mayor Teresa Galloway reported that the Downtown Development Authority’s May meeting reviewed the Downtown Construction Project.
Councilmember Bill Morgan reported on the Public Spaces Commission. The City’s Master Plan must review the parks section which could be done in-house. The group believes that a Lakeshore Advantage Grant may be obtainable to make improvements to the Mahan Park Gazebo. The members hope to solicit suggestions from residents on how to best utilize the Girl Scout property above the Kalamazoo River. Conversation covered vegetation that could be planted in the center of the new MDOT roundabout, and give a thank you to the City for the lovely maple tree on the Riverfront and to Timber for the plants in Jaycee Park. The Living History Tours in Oakwood Cemetery will be June 6 & 7, 2023.
Councilmember Roger Bird shared that the Planning Commission is ready to hold an Open House on the Master Plan draft. The Thursday, June 8, 2023 Open House will be held from 5-6:30pm at City Hall.
The Council gave approval for accounts payable in the amount of $631,938.89 and payroll in the amount of $110,808.73 for a total disbursement of $742,747.62. The City of Allegan FY2024 Budget that runs from July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024 was approved. The budget can be located online in the Council Meeting Packet for May 22, 2023.
Ron and Katelyn Ramsay, who own and operate Heronmark, a beer and wine production business, requested a permit to join the Downtown Allegan Social District. The business received a $25,000 Economic Development Corporation Match On Main grant. The money has been used to renovate 132 Hubbard St. where they will operate their microbrewery and winery along with offering charcuterie. The permit was approved and the couple hope to open before Bridgefest.
In addition, Matt Adams received a Downtown Allegan Social District permit for Tilt 118, LLC. Adams and his team will weave together the Regent Arcade, Scoopts Ice Cream, and a full service restaurant at 118 Brady St.
Because of adding businesses to the Downtown Social District, the Council adopted Resolution 23.19 to amend their plan that will be filed with the State.
Parker Johnson, Downtown Manager and Assistant to the City Manager, reviewed the updated Griswold Auditorium Policies and Procedures along with the fee structure to increase usage and participation of the facilities. The new document was approved.
City Manager Dye requested that the Council adopt the Section 3 Policy provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to assist in the rehabilitation of two apartments at 109 Locust St. The updated Section 3 Policy will allow for pass through funds from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development which will assist in developing housing for low to very low income persons.
The final approval by the Council was to divide 228 James St. within the R-2 Residential Zoning District.
During communications from the City staff and Council, City Clerk Michaela Kleehammer shared that the City voting precincts were reviewed, and she would be bringing a plan to the Council that would divide the City more equally, which would facilitate the work on election days.
Johnson reminded the Council that before their next meeting, multiple events would be happening in Allegan:
June 8th: the Planning Commission Open House
June 9th: the first Rollin’ on the River
June 10th: Bridgefest with multiple vendors, a Ferris wheel, corn home, an art market, a Cruise In for cars and more!
June 12th: the first Fork in the Road with 7 food trucks
A number of businesses have opened and are looking forward to the coming events.
The Code Enforcement Manual was reviewed and questions posed to Chief of Police Jay Gibson and Officer Josh Morgan. During past discussions, the Council wondered how City Ordinances were being enforced. Gibson and Morgan reinforced that they follow up on complaints and identified offenders of ordinances. Because they spend time interacting with the residents of the City, they follow a mantra to encourage offenders to voluntarily correct problems with the least amount of punitive response.
The duo stressed that the majority of concerns were corrected soon after individuals were approached. That said, there were repeat offenders who would make corrections only to fall back into the same pattern. This is a busy time of year as spring brings extra lawn care and clean-up projects.
The Council acknowledged that code enforcement was difficult. Chief Gibson shared that software was being used to track complaints and coordinate efforts of City Hall and the police force.
Councilmembers questioned if there could be a standard structure designed to better determine improvements or if a “board” could review some of the offenders. Citations have been replaced with abatements. The overall goal is compliance with documentation of what had been addressed and how those interactions were conducted.
In other discussion, the mystery of the water leaks brought detection of two minor leaks. Doug Sweeris continues investigating the water plant and fire suppression system to determine how the discrepancy is occurring. This has been an ongoing concern, and the employees continue explorations through the water utility network.