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In 2014 tighter grip on seasonal businesses

January 08, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

Open-air businesses in Orion Township will be contending with more restrictions in 2014.

Previously, the zoning ordinance grouped together temporary use permit requirements for both open-air and outdoor display and sales businesses. A township board decision which followed the planning commission's recommendation changed that on Monday night with a 7-0 vote.

The planning commission held a meeting December 4 on the issue, and recommended amending the schedule of fees and adding an escrow charge.

These changes do not affect outdoor display and sales, businesses that own or lease the parcel of land they operate on. Such a business is Kroger's that sells flowers outside its doors, or Ace Hardware selling dirt outside.

Open-air businesses involve seasonal displays of goods such as Christmas trees, fireworks and pumpkins.

With the revised ordinance, temporary permits for open-air will be bumped from $300 to $500 and will require a refundable escrow charge of $1,000.

The revised ordinance will also expand the radius in zoning in which open-air businesses can apply. Previously, open-air businesses couldn't be within 1,000 yards of each other.

That has increased to a mile.

"We don't want 30 pop-up tents selling merchandise all around town," Township Supervisor Chris Barnett said. "They compete against our brick and mortar businesses that are here year round that pay taxes and are invested in our community. We were allowing these people to come in basically for nothing."

The $1,000 will be completely refunded if there are no issues at the end of the season.

"But if we have to go out with our fire inspectors and inspect them multiple times, we'll charge that against their escrow account. If they leave a big mess and we have to clean it up, we'll charge it against their escrow," Barnett said. "So it gives us a little bit more teeth in our ordinance to what we can regulate."

Michael Mahan owns Lake Orion MI Fireworks off Lapeer Rd. He opened his business July 2012 in the township first as an open-air business, but it was so successful that he opened a brick and mortar business a couple months later in September, 2012.

"They really pick on the firework people," Mahan said.

In the same light, the four fireworks tents that came to town last year chewed away at at least half of his business, he said.

He keeps his tent open because it brings in more business during the Fourth of July. He agrees the mile radius will definitely eliminate some of the unkempt fireworks tents, but finds the escrow charge excessive.

"I think it's very unfair to me. I never violated any ordinances. I tried to set the example because I'm the only local guy out there. And now I have to put out another $1,000 to the township. I have to have insurance, I have to have my permit and my stand, and everything it takes to put it up. It's just more money out of my pocket to begin with," Mahan said.

"The bottom line is for a guy like him he's going to have to put up $1,000, but if he follows the rules he gets it all back," Barnett said. The escrow charge was added to help eliminate the many complaints of seasonal tents leaving behind a large mess, not abiding signing ordinances, and for failing to purchase temporary permits last summer, Barnett said.

Specialty permits for festivals, one-day or weekend events, such as Dragon on the Lake Vendors, do not apply to the new conditions. Agribusiness, such as farm markets and fruit and vegetable stands are also excluded.

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