City issues homeowners civil infraction over debated art sculpture

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jul 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-15 18:49:13-04

SAUGATUCK, Mich. – Lake Street homeowners John Porzondek and Bryan Serman said the city cited them with a civil infraction over what they call an art sculpture on their front lawn. Monday night they took their case to the City Council meeting to fight their citation, stating that the city has no right to define what art is, especially in a town known for its art. However, city officials reference ordinance codes for “excessive opinion signs.”

“It’s a heartless situation,” said Porzondek. “We asked that they come to the table and they have not: their attorneys have yelled and screamed. Why? Because it’s more far-reaching than City Hall.”

Former Saugatuck City Council Member Porzondek told FOX 17 that he’s worn down from the frustration of fighting the city for the past five years over what was their historic home’s second-story awning that was then turned into an umbrella, and now, butterfly sculpture on their front lawn.

Meanwhile city officials quote section 150 of city code that states residents may only display up to three “opinion signs” on their property. Now Porzondek and Serman continue to question why their sculpture is labeled as “opinion signs” when they say it is art.

“We just want to be left alone,” Porzondek told FOX 17. “I came to Saugatuck for peace, quiet, and our art. My landscape is my art. My home is my art. If I could wrap this home in an art project and submit it to Art Prize tomorrow I definitely would, that would probably solve a lot of our issues.”

The city issued the homeowners a civil infraction after they did not remove 11 of their 14 so-called opinion signs by July 8. Now Porzondek and Serman hold firmly that this violates their First Amendment Right.

Standing on his front lawn a series of cars honked their horns in solidarirty as Porzondek said, “There are no ordinances in Saugatuck that claim to define what art is. And an umbrella is the same: they cannot define what an umbrella is. There are no ordinances. We just want our umbrella back.”

City of Saugatuck Planning Director Michael Clark said as the homeowners fight the civil infraction the matter will be taken up before a judge in the 57th District Court in Allegan. The hearing is currently being scheduled.