By Jim Newell
The Lake Orion Village Council approved three business representative appointments to the newly-formed Events Advisory Committee during its meeting on Monday.
Kathy Coe of Ed’s Broadway Gift and Costume, Jennifer Meier of Green Hippo Gifts and Lisa Sokol of 20 Front Street were appointed unanimously and will represent the downtown business district interests on the committee.
Councilmember Teresa Rutt, who also serves on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and helped plan the recent Pours for the Parks fundraiser, is the village council representative on the events committee.
The nine-member committee also includes council President Ken Van Portfliet, police Chief Jerry Narsh, village Manager Joe Young, Public Works Director Jeremy Reichert and DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone.
The events committee is expected to begin meeting in late July or August.
Van Portfliet has been a proponent of creating the committee and was happy to see it come to fruition.
“I think it’s going to provide very positive feedback that will help our community and event planners,” he said. “By having this committee, we know that we have three strong business representatives. That’s great because we just didn’t offer that before.”
The council voted 7-0 during its June 24 meeting to create the committee to tackle the ever-growing number of events, races, parades, festivals and car shows occurring in downtown Lake Orion – and the process for approving special events.
The move comes after 40 business owners signed a petition in May opposing closing downtown streets and parking lots for the Lake Orion Challenge Triathlon in October, and the lack of communication with the business district.
The events committee would review special events and make recommendations to the village council for approval, approval with conditions, denial or tabling.
“I’m hoping we can make a significant impact,” Sokol said.
Van Portfliet hopes the committee helps the village keep the merchants better informed about events and how they may impact local business.
“In the past, some of the merchants wouldn’t even know that the events were going to happen, they hadn’t been notified. (There) will be opportunities for them to capitalize on some of those events. Maybe (they) theme their selection of inventory in different ways that might attract more people that come to that event, their store,” he said.
Van Portfliet also hopes the committee will help develop better ways to set up events in the downtown district “that will cater to both merchant activity and the events overall success.”
“I suspect that there will be things that come out of it that we didn’t even realize or think about, such as parking for the employees of the event organizer; some things that will be ‘Aha moments’ that will have great benefits,” he said.
The number of Lake Orion’s events have increased – including adding the for-profit Lake Orion Challenge and the Turkey Trot in November – and have now reached nearly two dozen events throughout the calendar year. Business owners said closing streets and parking lots deters customers and results in a potential profit loss.
“We’ve also been accused of being an event-happy community. So, what is that? This committee should be able to help us identify that,” Van Portfliet said. “When I put myself in the (merchants’) shoes – I’ve bought inventory and not having good communication and knowledge of what the events are, or my street closed off in front of me – how do I manage all that and not lose money. Because for these small businesses, the difference of $4,000 to $5,000 can be crippling.”
Van Portfliet knows the committee is a work-in-progress and that residents and merchants will likely see more progress in committee goals in January, after reviewing events and event application procedures.
“Right now, it’s going to more debate and trying to make the process better. When I looked at our event application here in the village it’s not as complete as I would like it to be. So, I would like to see their feedback. That would be one of the first things that I hope they would jump into. “I’ve already suggested a 90-day application requirement.”
The committee will also review for-profit events. Currently, most village events, such as the Orion Art Center’s Dragon on the Lake, the Lions Club’s Jubilee and all of the parades and 5k run/walks are currently run by local non-profit groups.
“Events that are for-profit, that’s money that’s not really kept in the community. That’s not the money that serves the same goodwill as our non-profits – like the Lions Club, they’re an incredible organization,” he said.