By Jim Newell
The Lake Orion Village Council approved the proposed Polar Plunge event application during its meeting on Monday evening.
The Polar Plunge is planned for Feb. 29 in the municipal parking lot off Shadbolt Street, behind 313 Pizza Bar, which is co-hosting the event with Special Olympics of Michigan.
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but organizers requested the lot be closed beginning at 8 a.m. for setup.
And closing a lot again, especially on a Saturday, has some business owners rankled.
“We’ve already established that parking is an issue for not only the businesses or people who want to come down here. It’s a known issue in Lake Orion that people complain about the parking,” said Jennifer Meier of Green Hippo Gifts, who questioned why the event could not be held in a park where a lot would not be closed. “What can you do so that we don’t have to close parking lots or close streets.”
Last summer, 40 downtown Lake Orion business owners/representatives signed a petition asking the village not to allow the proposed Lake Orion Challenge event. They also said continually closing streets and parking lots for events does affect traffic to their businesses and their profits.
Kathy Coe, who is on the village’s events committee and represents Ed’s Broadway Gifts & Costumes, said she and others were never notified that the village would shut down a section of Broadway Street last weekend for the Rotary Ice Golf Cup Challenge, losing 14 on-street parking spots in the process.
Many businesses owners have said they just want better communication and notification from the village.
“We all love Special Olympics, but isn’t there another place they can have it” without closing a parking lot? Coe asked.
The business co-hosting the event supports Special Olympics using the parking lot, said village Manager Joe Young, adding he had talked to 313 Pizza owner Drew Ciora about the event.
The parking lot, which has 35 spots, is a public, not privately-owned lot.
Last summer there were 21-22 events on the village calendar; as of Monday, there were 26 proposed events.
Special Olympics representative Susan Blakeslee, who filed the event application, said proceeds from the event will directly benefit Special Olympics athletes in Oakland County.
Council President Ken Van Portfliet questioned if Special Olympics had considered holding the Polar Plunge Green’s Park, which has lake access and room for a temporary tank.
Blakeslee said they wanted to keep the pool close to business partner 313 Pizza Bar during the event, which includes a pool for the plunge, changing tents and unspecified “splash bash” inside the restaurant.
Blakeslee said she planned to go door to door to downtown businesses and ask if, and how, they would like to be involved in the event.
The event application also asked for use of the village’s fire hydrant to fill up the pool. Village Clerk Susan Galeczka said the village would be reimbursed for the water costs.
Question for readers: Do you think it is acceptable to continually close public lots and streets to benefit one business when other downtown businesses are affected by the closures?
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