2017-05-18 / Front Page

City May Lease Dock for Parking

Move Could Give Public One More Access Point to Waterfront Downtown
By Kevin R. Hess

Arnold Line Freight Company has offered to lease the Favorite Dock to the city for $1 a year, to be used for public parking, Mayor Connie Litzner told the St. Ignace Downtown Development Authority (DDA) at its meeting Friday, May 12. An official agreement is not yet in place. St. Ignace Police Chief Mark Wilk asked about how rules would be enforced in terms of towing vehicles if they stayed past the allowed parking hours. He also reminded the board that some residents who live in the apartments across the street from the Favorite Dock have been allowed to park there, and that any agreement should make sure that those residents will have reserved spots. Mayor Litzner said that there are details to be worked out and that she would have a conversation with city attorney Tom Evashevski before bringing the topic to the city council for official action.

Betsy Dayrell-Hart, who chairs the planning commission, suggested if the small beach area behind the Favorite Dock would be part of the agreement, it would be easy to install a bench and trash can and make it another area for people to enjoy the beach and view summer fireworks.

“I think this gives us a good option when we get all the details worked out,” said Mayor Litzner.

Downtown Window Treatment

Citizen Paula McNamara-Underwood was in attendance to share an idea about how to spruce up the downtown during the offseason when seasonal businesses are closed. She proposed offering after-school art classes in which local artists would work with students at LaSalle High School to create artwork that would then be displayed in the windows of downtown shop fronts using LED lighting. She and Clyde Hart would be the primary instructors for the class and would volunteer their time. The program would begin in the fall, with the goal to have all the artwork finished and ready for display by early November.

The next steps would be to talk to business owners and the school about their interest in the program. DDA Director Deb Evashevski was in favor of the idea, but proposed that they focus on a small number of businesses the first time around to test it out.

“Some businesses do stay open all year, and others already have beautiful window displays,” said Mrs. Evashevski. “Maybe we focus on those that don’t have displays first.”

The DDA board was in favor of the proposal and approved budgeting $500 seed money for supplies, such as canvases and paints.

DDA Board Chairman Jim North thanked Mrs. McNamara-Underwood for her idea.

“You’ve brought us a solution to a problem we’ve been discussing for a while now,” said Mr. North.

Height Restrictions on Downtown Waterfront

Planning Commission Chair Dayrell-Hart further discussed sign ordinances and height restrictions on the downtown waterfront. The zoning ordinance concerning height allows for a building height of 20 feet from the ground floor entrance. With lots of undeveloped property available and St. Ignace’s focus on developing that property purposefully, Dr. Dayrell-Hart said it was important to start having these discussions as the city’s master plan will be formulated this summer and fall.

The plans will be made to reflect what the citizens want to see, she said, adding, “No one in St. Ignace has said, ‘Let’s make taller buildings.’”

A final meeting in a series of public hearings on proposed amendments to the sign ordinance is scheduled for Wednesday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to noon at the St. Ignace Public Library. During that meeting, the Planning Commission will present the conclusions it has drawn and ask for input from the public on current signage and sign ordinances. Following the meeting, the Planning Commission will write a draft of amendments and present the draft at a public hearing. Following any changes to the draft, it will be presented to City Council for consideration.

DDA Budget Committee

Mrs. Evashevski told the board about new legislation passed at the state level that allows libraries to opt out of paying DDA taxes. This could result in a loss of $8,000 a year to the DDA, she said. No action has been taken yet owing to lawsuits in place challenging this legislation. The budget committee presented its recommendations to adjust the budget if needed, to account for the loss.

The streetlight project will begin soon. The city will sample two styles of lights to see how they would look and operate. The project will cost approximately $150,000 for 93 lights at $1,000 to $1,200 each. The recommendation of the budget committee is to pay for the project through the property management account.

Advertising and Hiring for New DDA Director

Mrs. Evashevski will retire in December, and the DDA will advertise the open position through local newspapers as well as online sites such as the Michigan Downtown Association. They plan to begin advertising the position in August. The interview process will consist of two panels. One interview panel will be made up of the entire DDA board, and the other of city department heads that the director will be working with closely. The board will create a scoring system that each member of the panel will use to evaluate the candidates.

Museum Manager Report

In an update about grant applications the Museum of Ojibwa Culture is seeking, Shirley Sorrels said, in the future, the museum will have all of its signs in English and Anishinaabe languages. Dr. Dayrell-Hart commented that it would be great to see St. Ignace do this for all of its signs, including street signs, to preserve the history of the Anishinaabe culture.

Mrs. Sorrels invited the board to hold their June meeting at the museum.

Other Business

Mayor Litzner brought up the need for mirrors at certain roadways downtown to make entrance onto State Street safer. The alley beside the Gold Mine, and the roadway between The Galley and B.C. Pizza were mentioned as two areas where it is dangerous. Drivers have to edge out into State Street to see if there is oncoming traffic. The addition of mirrors would be safer for cars and pedestrians, said Mayor Litzner. Chief Wilk also mentioned the alleyway between K.C. Hobbies and First National Bank, and the parking lot of Ace Hardware as other spots where entering into traffic can be dangerous.

The next DDA meeting will take place Friday, June 9, at 8 a.m. at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture.

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