2014-03-27 / Front Page

City tackles fence, rental ordinances

Residents may now obtain front yard fences

MANISTIQUE – Changes to two city ordinances will go into effect in a matter of days, following Monday’s meeting of the Manistique City Council. A third ordinance, granting a PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) to Lakeview Apartments, was also approved.

Before discussion about the ordinances began, Councilperson Bill Vandagriff stepped away from his seat to speak under the public comment portion of the meeting. He began by expressing concerns about the proposed changes to section 415 of Ordinance 299, which would allow certain types of front yard fences to be built within city limits.

Vandagriff said he had been observing neighborhoods both in town and downstate, and had second thoughts about the ordinance.

“Do people have a right to do whatever they want with their property?” he said. “I think in some cases they do, but I also think that the people who live around them also have rights.”

Vandagriff noted that while people can choose to do certain things to their homes and property, they should always take into consideration whether it will enhance the neighborhood or detract from it. He explained that when council first talked about it, he and others were likely imagining white picket fences everywhere, but that probably would not be the case.

Vandagriff said he was concerned with those residents who would let their fences go after a while, not trim grass underneath it, let their dogs run along the fence lines and bark at pedestrians, and let debris blow up against the fence and leave it.

“I think people that have fences in their front yard and have kids are probably more likely to leave more toys out in the front yard,” he said. “The thing that really sealed it for me when I was down in Waterford this weekend … the person had a fence in their front yard, and also in their front yard, they had a large swing set.

I’m not sure that’s something that I really want to see in our neighborhoods,” he added.

There were no other public comments about the issue.

Later, during council discussion of the ordinance, Councilperson Rick Hollister addressed some of Vandagriff’s concerns. He noted Manistique Public Safety and other members of the public would be proactive with the ordinance, ensuring as much as they could that no fences became an eyesore.

“I think the blight ordinance will alleviate most of the problem, if not all of it,” he said.

Vandagriff countered that he is not “really into” city workers keeping track of any potential fence problems.

“This just adds one more thing for them to do – to go around and see if everyone’s fence is up to code, to see if everyone’s fence is painted, if their grass is mowed, if they have swimming pools in their front yard,” he said.

Hollister noted that if enough people didn’t comply with the newly added changes to the ordinance, they would be rescinded.

Councilperson Liz Hill noted she serves on the city’s planning commission and that they had spent over a year on the ordinance, discussing what would work and what wouldn’t.

She also explained that this ordinance would help those whose backyards are located adjacent to streets.

“You can’t have a dog, you can’t have children, you can’t have anybody play in your yard, because you can’t have a fence,” she said. “That … was the number one issue with this ordinance.”

We thought it’s worth a try,” she added. “We were very, very attentive to spelling out, exactly, what would be an attractive-looking fence.”

Mayor Jan Jeffcott pointed out that anyone looking to install a front yard fence would have to comply with five thorough stipulations.

“I don’t anticipate there are going to be a great number of front yard fences,” she said.

The front yard fence ordinance was approved, with Vandagriff casting the sole “no” vote. Councilperson Dan Evonich was absent.

An ordinance amending sections 264 and 265 of the 2003 Establishing Rental Licensing and Regulation Ordinance was approved unanimously.

“This ordinance will be much more effective and will protect both the renter and the landlord,” City Manager Sheila Aldrich explained. “(It) will give us a lot more control with our rentals – something that we’ve needed for a while.”

Also unanimously approved was a tax exemption ordinance establishing a PILT plan for Peter Potterpin, owner of PK Housing and Management out of Okemos, Mich., which owns Lakeview Apartments in Manistique.

The ordinance sets a payment of 12 percent of the company’s net income, which Aldrich noted would generate the approximate revenue as a normal ad valorem tax bill.

With a PILT plan, Potterpin is looking to complete a $1.25-1.5 million rehabilitation project at the apartments.

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