"Craft Manufacturing" Ordinance Hopes to Transform Downtown Allegan
A new "Craft Manufacturing" ordinance passed on Monday by the Allegan City Council allows for light manufacturing in two Allegan commercial districts, including Downtown.
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Light manufacturing is defined as hand tools, household, or light commercial level equipment. It eliminates a major headache for Landria Christman, who owns the Sassy Olive in downtown Allegan. Before, she could not operate her sewing machines in her store, but now, she can create her Sassy Olive headbands in her own store, instead of having to outsource the work locally.
Christman is about to celebrate the Sassy Olive’s fourth birthday. They’re marking the occasion, and their incredible growth, by moving into a new and much larger storefront in downtown Allegan. Handling all production phases in-house enables Christman to easily produce her ever-changing inventory.
"We really strive to have unique patterns that we turnover really quickly, so we don't have the same thing all the time," Christman said.
Mary Miller has lived in Allegan for over 30 years, and says she would like to see a more vibrant downtown.
"Obviously there's a lot of stores that are vacant, so we need to do whatever we can to bring in people, more creative arts," Miller said.
Allegan City Manager Joel Dye said Christman isn’t the only one who is planning to take advantage of the new ordinance. He says at least one other craft business has already been looking to move into a downtown Allegan storefront.
"In my 18 months here as city manager, I've been introduced to a lot of people who have what I would define as a creative bent, and artists bent, and my goal is to let them share that creativity, let them share that talent on our main street,” Dye said.
The ordinance comes with some restrictions. The manufacturing area of a store can't be greater than 50 percent of the store’s total area, must be 25 feet from the front door, and must not produce any noise, vibrations, heat or emissions that are detectable beyond the businesses property line.
"We're preserving the storefront look, what you do in the backroom, is what you do in the backroom. What you do in the basement, is what you do in the basement,” Dye said. “We're hoping to remove some of those roadblocks, will grow some of those businesses in downtown Allegan, while looking to preserve that downtown character we have in Downtown Allegan right now."
Included in the light manufacturing definition, are small household machines, like a sewing machine, welding equipment or a carpenter’s woodworking power tools.
Dye was previously Holland City Manager, where they have a similar ordinance. He believes in being as accommodating as possible to local artisans.
"We are rolling our sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to build on the excitement and energy here,” Dye said. “Cities need businesses. Cities should work to encourage, not limit businesses, within reason. We believe this ordinance and the associated standards will allow businesses to thrive without negatively impacting the health, safety and general welfare of the public.”