2008-08-09 / Top News

Council Addresses Concerns Regarding Off-Island Vendors

By Diane Ivey

The Mackinac Island City Council addressed resident concerns about off-Island vendors during special events at its meeting Wednesday, July 30. Discussion was triggered by correspondence from Cathy Arbib, owner of Silver Mine gift shop, who expressed concern about the behavior of Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac sponsors Mount Gay Rum and Land's End.

Ms. Arbib said she felt the off-Island businesses were in too much competition with local businesses, and violated the new sign ordinance by placing banners and erecting tents on city property.

"As a longtime resident, property owner, taxpayer, and merchant struggling with everyone else to survive in the present business environment, I am absolutely appalled at the city council allowing an outside company to come in, and with the small price of a business license, erect a tent and do business in direct competition with local merchants," Ms. Arbib wrote.

The letter sparked conversation between the city council and the audience, and Mayor Margaret Doud defended the city's actions to allow the transient stores, and said she and Police Chief Jim Marks personally removed most of the Mount Gay Rum banners after they became aware of the problem.

Grand Hotel President R.D. Musser III spoke on behalf of the vendors, particularly Land's End, which erected a tent next to the hotel tennis courts on Cadotte Avenue to sell merchandise during the 100th anniversary race party and awards ceremony Tuesday, July 22. Land's End operated under the stipulation that it purchase a new business license for $400, an agreement reached during a council meeting Wednesday, July 16.

"The race was undeniably good for business," Mr. Musser said. "We need to offer every incentive we can find to get people to come here."

While the race brought people to the Island, the vendors stood in the way of local businesses, said Sam Barnwell, owner of Mackinac Outfitter & Marine Supply. Mr. Barnwell said he lost money because Land's End would only sell merchandise at the tents, and not through local businesses, even though he offered to purchase it.

"The new sign ordinance won't let me have a sign by the Marine Supply," Mr. Barnwell said, referring to his store location at the Yoder dock. "But these vendors don't have to abide by the rules of the ordinance."

Village Inn co-owner Mary Dufina said that while she was concerned about ordinance violations, the race brought so many people to the Island that she did not feel a negative impact from the vendors.

"The race was good to us," she said.

Mayor Doud said the issue will be addressed at the next ordinance committee meeting on August 13.

In other business, five business licenses were renewed for R&M Lakebluff Properties and The Mackinac Island Bead Company on the Island, and Timberwolf Tree Care, Winberg Masonry, and Maxwell Paving Stone off-Island.

Council also approved Mayor Doud to sign an engagement letter for Rehmann Robson, an accounting firm, to complete an audit for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

The purchase of surge protectors for the Mackinac Island Police Department, at the cost of $648.05, was approved. Purchases of more than $500 are required to be announced at council, City Clerk Karen Lennard said.

A temporary trailer permit was issued to Timberwolf Tree Care to fertilize trees on the Straus and Rearick properties. The permit was approved July 18, contingent on the approval of Timberwolf Tree Care's business license.

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