Council picks sidewalk fix priority areas
The Ludington City Council Monday designated which streets in the city will be the priority areas for new sidewalk installations and repairs, and amended policy to allow more property owners to be exempt from paying for sidewalk improvements.
One priority area for sidewalk improvements is a rectangular zone bordered by Tinkham Avenue in the north, Lakeshore Drive in the west, Dowland Street in the south and Staffon Street in the east. The other priority area is the blocks between Washington Avenue and Madison Street, and between First and Sixth streets.
Ludington requires owners of property abutting public streets to pay half the cost of replacing their damaged sidewalks or installing new sidewalks — with the city matching the other half of the cost — when the city requests the improvements in writing or prior to an owner selling or otherwise transferring the property.
Previously, exemptions have been granted only where geographic limitations made it too difficult for installation, however, now exemptions can be granted for properties that are outside of the priority areas, or that don’t connect to existing sidewalks.
Prior to the ownership transfer, the department of public works would inspect the property, determine if sidewalk work should be done and provide the owner with an estimate of the cost, according to the ordinance. The property owner may pay the city upfront or spread payment over a two-year period at a 6-percent interest rate.
City Manager Mitch Foster told the council that since most new sidewalks would only be installed in the case of property transfers within the target areas, the city will likely stay within its limited sidewalk budget, however it will take “a long time” to connect all the sidewalks in the city.
“It’s still going to go based on property sales,” Foster said. “Currently, because it only happens at real estate transactions, that priority area could take 25 years.”
The council amended the city’s boutique hotel ordinance, which is a change that could allow more short-term rentals downtown.
The approved amendment eliminated the requirement that a building applying to become a boutique hotel had to have a minimum of four rental units. The maximum limit that a boutique hotel can have — up to 10 units — remains unchanged.
Boutique hotels are one of the few types of establishments that are permitted to offer short-term rental stays of less than 28 days within city limits.
Now more dwellings can register as boutique hotels, but only in zoning districts where they are permitted as a special land use granted by the planning commission: upper-floor residences above commercial buildings in the central business and maritime commercial districts — which include the downtown sections of West Ludington Avenue and South James Street — and in the old town business district, which includes a few upper floors near South Washington Avenue in the Fourth Ward.
The council heard and accepted the results of the city’s 2018 audit presentation.
The council adopted a code of conduct policy for the city councilors and the members of the city’s committees, boards and commissions.
The council OK’d updates to the city’s contract with Consumers Energy regarding ongoing replacements of streetlights from using traditional bulbs to using more energy efficient LED fixtures.
Due to 2018 changes in state law, the council updated the city’s Freedom of Information Act request procedures to require requesters to submit their complete name, address and either a valid telephone number or email address.
The council heard a presentation from Ludington High School teacher Mark Willis’ environmental science class about the deer herd living in city limits, which has a population calculated to be 375 deer.
The council also approved:
• Mason County Central Schools’ request to hold its summer food service lunch program for kids at Waterfront Park July 17 — Aug. 2;
• the Ludington Daily News’ request to host its Western Michigan In-Water Boat and Home Show Sept. 5 — 8;
• the Ludington Area Jaycees’ Fourth of July fireworks display permit and Freedom Festival events;
• scheduling a Committee of the Whole meeting of the council for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at city hall;
• the resignation of Nick Krieger from the Ludington Planning Commission and the Mason County District Library Board, since he has been appointed as a Mason County commissioner.