By Gari Voss
Allegan’s City Council worked to clarify park fees, Off Road Vehicle (ORV) routes, commission recommendations, special use variances, and downtown development pieces while celebrating water awards and city events.
During the Study Session, the Council was able to review staff suggestions for a clearer rental structure for parks, areas of the Griswold Auditorium and the Regent Theater. The previous fee structure brought numerous groups to Council meetings in order to request reductions in charges. To clarify fees, City Manager Joel Dye and Downtown Manager Parker Johnson explained the process of examining the areas in question then researching similar amenities in surrounding towns. Some fees were increased and others decreased to arrive at a new schedule.
The Council thanked the staff for their work and made several suggestions regarding events inviting the general public and those involving non-profit organizations. The Council requested that the staff address defining exactly what Allegan community event” meant, include city sponsored recreational events, and include non-profit organizations. During the regular meeting, the Council approved the City of Allegan Park Facility Reservation Request form presented by Johnson.
Study Session discussion reviewed new information that Manager Dye had gathered on ORVs entering the city. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) sent a letter to the city outlining that ORVs could travel on Michigan trunklines only if there was an 8’ shoulder.
The Council is divided regarding how many of the city streets could be used by the ORV or Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) operators. At this time, only Second Street (the bridge), State and Water Streets are scheduled to be open to ORVs. A closer look at MDOT’s connector routes of M222, M89 and M40 revealed that getting into downtown without using at least one of the Michigan roads was extremely difficult because these do not have the 8’ shoulder.
During the Study Session, Scott Beltman spoke for ORV enthusiasts. Beltman expressed that there may be other opportunities to enter the city, such as the trestle bridge that gives access to Jaycee Park and is being used by golf carts. There may be other alternatives that would allow riders to reach a downtown parking lot. The desire was for the Council to approve the ORV Ordinance then let the operators navigate ways to reach downtown, and the Council should approve ORVs to drive in the downtown area from Hubbard to Monroe Streets and from Cedar to Water and State Streets.
When the second reading of the ordinance came during the regular meeting, additional ORV owners were present to speak in favor of the approval. Beltman summarized that 1. ORVs should have at least access to parking areas, 2. The Council should not exclude 4-wheelers, and 3. If the trestle bridge is used, there should be a 5-10 mph speed limit.
Other public comments were made by people who did not live in Allegan. The consensus was that if Allegan did not approve the ORV ordinance and allow access to downtown, they would continue to travel to communities such as Hamilton and Burnips where SUVs could get to gas stations, grocery stores and cafes to spend their money.
When reviewing the city street map that indicated streets that were not MDOT trunklines, one visitor wondered if restrictions would make it worthwhile to venture to downtown Allegan. But others felt that a closer look at the maps might reveal routes that had not been explored.
In the end, the Council voted to table Ordinance 502 regarding Off-Road Vehicles until the first meeting in May because of the numerous questions that still did not have answers. Over the next two weeks, the City staff will get back with MDOT regarding the use of the trestle bridge, examine alternative routes to town, reconsider access points that allow for passage to downtown, and better define the vehicles in question, especially 4-wheelers.
Additional decisions by Council included the approval of a Special Use Permit for 201 Thomas Street to construct a pole barn that included living quarters. The Planning Commission had approved this variance and hoped it would pave the way to find more solutions to Allegan’s housing concerns. Water Utilities Director Doug Sweeris felt that the additional living unit on the 2½ acres would not over-tax the utilities infrastructure.
The fees were waived for the Allegan Area Art Association so they could hold their summer Art Camp at the Griswold Auditorium. Treasurer Marcia Behm shared that the week of classes would center on techniques used by famous artists and end with an Art Show to display the campers’ creations.
Mayor Andrus shared that the Downtown Development Authority had been considering contacting the State requesting an extension of the Social District when they learned that the State had already agreed to do just that. In addition, Bridgefest will have a large Ferris wheel erected for the celebration. Other activities sponsored by the City will include concerts at the Griswold, Rollin’ on the River, Fork in the Road, July 3rd Jubilee, and Sidewalk Sales. To facilitate traveling around the city, wayfaring signage was discussed, and picnic tables added during Mondays’ Fork in the Road would be considered.
The Council approved accounts payable in the amount of $434,261.07 and payroll in the amount of $79,398.30 for a total disbursement of $513,659.37. In addition, the request to adopt Resolution 22.19 Authorizing the City of Allegan to Negotiate Certificate of Deposits with Huntington Bank and giving Manager Dye the ability to sign for the renewals were approved.
In order to better define Allegan’s Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act Tax Incentive Policy (OPRA), Dye shared a system for setting timelines for rehabilitation to be completed. There would be a ten year cap depending on the amount of improvement the owner would undertake. Currently nine properties in the downtown district have received OPRA tax incentives.
Mayor Delora Andrus read the Drinking Water Week Proclamation that acknowledged drinking water as a valuable natural resource that is vital for and essential to health, hydration and hygiene required for quality of life. We should all be stewards of the water infrastructure, and citizens are asked to protect our valuable drinking water. May 1-7, 2022 is Drinking Water Week.
Plans for the ALEgan Beer Festival on May 21, 2022 are in full swing. Because of the success of ALEgan 2019, the City Staff sought a location that could accommodate several thousand visitors. The Allegan County Fairgrounds graciously provide room for the event. Dye and Johnson are ironing out the concerns regarding insurance for the large event. Currently, they expect 16 beer vendors, 2 bands and numerous food trucks. When questioned about providing transportation to downtown, ideas turned to something like the Trolley. The Council approved additional signage that would be installed for the event.
Dye shared that conversations were being held with a couple hotel development groups. The most promising was Cobblestone Hotels that also met with Lakewood Construction and would have a target market representative visit Allegan. Dye admitted that it was a slow but productive process.
Kudos were given to the Allegan Community Players for a successful run of their One-Act Plays. The Players are beginning plans for their summer production of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
In the meanwhile,
Friday, April 29th will be Downtown Showers with shops open and a Car Show on Trowbridge Street.
Saturday, April 30th, the Griswold will hold the Ukraine Benefit with proceeds going to assist families displaced by the war.
Saturday, April 30th, City Clerk Michaela Kleehammer will be at City Hall to register voters for the Tuesday, May 3rd election and to distribute absentee ballots to eligible voters.
Allegan’s Water Plant Manager Zach Kortz and Water Utilities Director Doug Sweeris display the first place award won by the City of Allegan at the regional Water Works Association meeting. During the April 25th Council Meeting, Sweeris announced that the City of Allegan won the Best Tasting Drinking Water competition. Doug extended an open invitation to the City Council and general public to tour the drinking water plant with Zach.