2005-05-13 / Top News

City Passes Cart Ordinance

Mayor Casts Tie-Breaking Vote; Rule Goes in Effect June 1
By Ryan Schlehuber

After months of planning, drafting, and debating, it came down to a tie-breaking vote of approval from Mackinac Island Mayor Margaret Doud to pass the city’s new luggage cart ordinance, No. 66, Article VI, at the City Council meeting Wednesday, May 11. Business owners, residents, and employees will now have to adjust to the new restrictions on using luggage carts and rules for the use of garden carts and personal carts.

The city’s six aldermen were locked in a 3-3 tie vote before Mayor Doud tipped the balance in favor of the ordinance, using her tie-breaking voting power provided for in the city’s long-standing charter.

Voting against the ordinance were Frank Bloswick, Dan Wightman, and Armin Porter, who sat at his first official council meeting after being elected to the three-year term May 3.

Aldermen Armand “Smi” Horn, Michael Hart, and Jason St. Onge voted in favor of the ordinance.

Starting June 1, no one will be allowed to hand-push luggage carts on city streets, whether they be loaded with freight, luggage, or if they are empty. Luggage carts, four-feet by six-feet carts with four wheels that boatlines use to haul luggage and other items to and from the mainland, can only be allowed on city streets if they are hitched to a horse-drawn vehicle such as a dray, taxi, or shuttle.

The ordinance will only be in effect between May 1 and October 31.

Business owners and residents protested the measure at a series of meetings when the luggage cart ban was being discussed, charging that the law is arbitrary and suggesting it is motivated by efforts to curtail the freight business at Shepler’s. Freight, especially perishable foods, moved by horse-drawn drays is too slow, restaurant owners testified, and luggage carts provide faster delivery.

Dr. Bill Chambers of Mackinac Island Service Company said his company already is making improvements to their horse-drawn delivery system to meet the demands of the customers. One idea to assure quicker delivery is to use three one-horse buckboards for quick delivery of perishables.

The Service Company is the only freight-hauling company that the public is allowed to use on the Island, although taxis and shuttles, as well as drays, can pull up to two luggage carts in tandem to destinations on the Island. That is especially useful for transporting luggage for bus tours, which is often shipped from the mainland on shrink-wrapped luggage carts, ready for delivery.

Those wishing to move their personal belongs without the benefit of a horse, can do so with a garden cart or a city-defined “personal cart,” which is only a foot shorter than most luggage carts used by the boat lines. The personal carts must be personally owned, however, and can be used only by the owner and only to haul the owner’s own material.

Businesses can transport their own freight on personal carts and garden carts, but cannot haul freight for other businesses.

Dock porters, however, will be allowed to haul small parcels on their bicycles to Island destinations.

Personal carts can be no wider than 36 inches (not including wheels) and no longer than 72 inches, excluding any tongue or handle. Standard garden carts meet the requirements, as they are smaller than personal carts.

Personal and garden carts must be removed immediately from the street after loading and unloading items or the owner could be fined. Personal and garden carts must also be clearly labeled with the name of the owner.

Any type of trailer to be used on the Island to haul a large quantity of freight must now be approved by Council before it is shipped to the Island.

The ordinance will allow Shepler’s to continue to operate its freight loading and unloading operation on the side of Main Street in front of its dock, however, Shepler’s and the city are in the middle of a legal battle over the time restrictions placed on Shepler’s freight business license.

Many residents and business owners who attended the luggage cart ordinance meetings over the past few months believe the new ordinance is like “taking an annoying fly and using a sledgehammer to get rid of it,” as Cloghaun Inn owner Marti Carey said at the April 27 public hearing. Many people believe other existing ordinances can resolve the city’s issues of abandoned carts and overloaded and hazardous hauling of hand-pushed carts if the city would just reinforce them or restrict cart use during the busy times of the day.

Some city politicians contend that regulations on the use of carts had to be imposed to protect the horse and buggy tradition on Mackinac. They argued that the use of luggage carts for commercial freight delivery could eventually drive the drays out of business. They also alleged that overloading luggage carts and hand-pushing them through heavy traffic could result in injuries to passers-by, a potential liability to the city.

Summer workers and shop owners have been using the luggage carts to move groceries, furniture, and inventory for short distances in the downtown area, and bars and restaurants have found them to be a quick way to get food from the docks to their establishments, without having to wait for a dray delivery.

Shepler’s and Arnold Transit, the only two ferry companies with a freight operation, also have been hand-pushing luggage carts loaded with freight to speed deliveries. This made the ordinance even more necessary, say proponents of the luggage cart ban.

Council’s original intent was to stop the hand pushing of luggage carts on city streets and, thus, control the number of carts left unattended at the curbs, which created traffic jams. But as council worked on numerous drafts, more details were added and citizens grew worrisome that the restrictions would be burdensome to the public and to the police, as well.

“The whole concept of this ordinance is ill-conceived,” said Shepler’s owner Bill Shepler, speaking to Council during its public comment time, held toward the end of the meeting, after the motion had passed. “This new ordinance will cause nothing more than more confusion on Main Street. This will cause more delay on product deliveries, it will cause more costs for Island products. I would strongly suggest the council would look at the community that this ordinance affects.”

Mayor Doud told the audience that the ordinance may still need polishing, but, she said, the city must begin somewhere to resolve problems with the use of luggage carts.

Council probably will start polishing with a critical paragraph of the ordinance that was mistakenly left out of the final draft adopted Wednesday night. That is the sentence that bans luggage cart use by individuals it most likely will be added to the ordinance at a special meeting or at the next regular council meeting, said City Attorney Tom Evashevski on Thursday, May 12.

As for other changes that may need to be made, said Mayor Doud Wednesday, “We will do the best we can. I don’t think anybody up here is saying this is something cast in stone. It is something that we will work with. We will work with the people.

“I think we have to start someplace and then see how it goes,” she continued. “If we need to come back to the drawing board, we’ll come back to the drawing board. We’re not afraid to do that. But I think with all the work that has gone into this, we have to start someplace.”

Alderman Bloswick said he voted against the ordinance because the city already has laws on the books that could resolve the city’s concerns.

Alderman Porter believes that, while the ordinance is well-intended, it is too loaded with regulations.

“It’s too much,” he said. “I believe there are common-sense solutions out there. This ordinance is too much of an inconvenience.”

Alderman Wightman also believes the ordinance was stretched too far.

“I have always been opposed to hauling freight on luggage carts,” he said, “but the ordinance, in this form, I didn’t agree with it. There are several things in there I didn’t agree with. This is something council will more than likely be revisiting.”

Mayor Doud said she broke the 3-3 tie to adopt the ordinance because the city needs to start somewhere and start soon.

“We worked hard on this and we held lots of meetings on it,” she said. “I strongly believe it’s a good place to start.”

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