City approves outdoor display, pedestrian passage ordinances

MARQUETTE — City ordinances in regards to pedestrian passageway on sidewalks and outdoor merchandise displays were passed April 9 at the Marquette City Commission meeting.

Changes to the Marquette City Code, which both items fall under, must be made via ordinance and adopted following a public hearing at a city commission meeting, the city code states.

During the meeting, the commission talked at length about Ordinance 663 — the pedestrian passage on sidewalks ordinance — and Ordinance 664 — outdoor merchandise displays.

First discussed was the pedestrian passage on sidewalks and an amendment to the code’s section 42-30, which regulates the amount of sidewalk space that must be maintained for free passage of pedestrians in the city.

The amended ordinance states that at least 6 feet of sidewalk space is to be kept clean and clear for the free passage of pedestrians and if building operations make passage impractical, a temporary plank sidewalk with substantial railings built to specifications supplied by the city engineer, will be provided around obstructions. The proposal also clarifies that local sidewalks must comply with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Frank Verito, Marquette resident and frequent city meeting attendee, noted that a recent anniversary party for a downtown business was held and that temporary fencing “erected from their front door clear to the Washington Street sidewalk allowing no passage for wheelchairs or anyone else for that matter,” he said.

“Our only choices were to jaywalk to the other side of the road or use the roadway near the most dangerous intersection in town. If Section 42-30 were approved would such a business be required to provide a temporary plank sidewalk with substantial railings as mentioned in the agenda supplement?” Verito asked.

Commissioner Mike Plourde said the ordinance will bring the city in line with ADA requirements. The requirements, he said, change, and with that, the ordinance would change as well.

“This ordinance will be allowed to change with it,” said Plourde. “So this ordinance is becoming a little more flexible.”

The ordinance was passed unanimously. After a long back-and-forth discussion regarding Ordinance 664, it was eventually passed as well.

Ordinance 664 refers to the establishment of a process by which businesses within the boundaries of the Marquette Downtown Development Authority could temporarily place outdoor merchandise displays in front of their businesses.

“As it currently stands the city regulations prohibit any outdoor display or any outdoor merchandise and restricts any business to a complete enclosed building,” said DDA Executive Director Mona Lang. “As we’ve moved into different planning and different consultants we know that street activity helps to provide a vibrant atmosphere and environment. I think it’s important for our merchants. It really does help them to strengthen their business. They believe to be able to have a display it brings in interest and potential customers.”

A resolution supporting a non-refundable fee of $110 to be issued by the city clerk’s office for a license to display merchandise outdoors during the city business license year, which is May 1 through Oct. 31 of each year, raised questions among Lang and the majority of the commission because of the high fee.

“I think it might be a little steep for some small businesses for the amount of time that they’re able to put a rack out in front of their storefront,” Lang said.

Commissioner Sarah Reynolds agreed with Lang and asked if the city manager or City Clerk Kris Hazeres knew how the amount was determined.

“The cost started out being very comparable to the sidewalk cafe licensing procedure, without alcohol of course,” Hazeres said. “With department review and all the participation of staff and follow up, right now the fee of a sidewalk cafe without alcohol is $130. We went to a bit lower cost because we didn’t have to have as much review and enforcement and frankly, it’s a requirement to provide with the application … it’s basically based on safety and following up on measures we normally do with a business license.”

Mayor Pro Tem Frederick Stonehouse, Commissioner Peter Frazier and Mayor Dave Campana said they also had trouble supporting the resolution because of the cost.

Campana said that even though $110 doesn’t sound like a lot “it is a lot” because merchants only get 12 square feet of space to display items.

“I’m all in favor of zero or $25 at the most. There’s no reason to hit these merchants … the people pay 2 mills to the DDA on top of their regular taxes. Let’s give them a break. They’re trying to make this town more appealing and vibrant,” he said.

Reynolds agreed, adding that the Upper Peninsula doesn’t have a very long summer season “to be putting things outside” and that it seems like “a lot of money for that time.”

Commissioner Paul Schloegel, Plourde and City Manager Mike Angeli reminded the commission that it’s up the city to enforce rules if merchants ever broken them, which would cost the city money.

“We have to take into consideration that somebody’s going to have to police this,” Schloegel said. Angeli added that it’s a “mistake” to think the ordinance won’t cost the city anything.

Commissioner Jenna Smith, who originally made a motion to approve the resolution, asked to amend her motion by requesting that the business fee be lowered to $55 with an option to revisit the issue just so they could “get the ball rolling” for the upcoming season.

The resolution was passed with a 6-1 vote, with Campana opposing because the fee was still “too much.”

“I think $55 would be fair to get it going and when budget season comes around in July, we will have to talk about all these fees again — we’re going to sit down and go through every single one, that’s why I said yes,” Reynolds said.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.