SOUTH HAVEN — Pat Gaston is accustomed to seeing many residents and visitors park along her street during the summer months. After all, she only lives a block from Lake Michigan and the city’s popular South Beach.
But she couldn’t believe what she saw recently.
“On the 3rd of July, someone pulled up on the street in front of me and set up a grill in their pickup truck and started to grill, and then set out their chairs” (to watch the annual Light up the Lake fireworks display). “I was stunned.”
She was even more stunned after she called police.
“The police came and said it’s a parking spot. They claimed 15 other people were doing this,” Gaston said.
As it turns out, there is no ordinance in the city of South Haven to prevent people from parking on city-owned public right-of-ways and grilling from the back of their pickup trucks.
But that’s expected to change soon.
City council members on Monday introduced an ordinance to make it a civil infraction for people to start recreational fires on public right-of-ways owned by the city – such as streets, parking lots and grassy areas within street medians.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, some residents expressed concern about the use of portable grills in parking spaces along city streets and in the grassy areas within street medians,” City Manager Brian Dissette said. “Staff believes that this ordinance would promote public safety by reducing the risk of uncontained fire along the side of city streets. It would also reduce clear-vision issues that might arise when people congregate in the right-of-way to grill.”
Council members are expected to vote on whether to approve the ordinance at their next meeting after holding a public hearing to gather public input.
Gaston is one resident who hopes the ordinance passes out of concern for the safety of others if the fires get out of hand.
“We can’t ever figure out how nutty people can be,” she said. “It’s amazing we have to have an ordinance.”