Reed City officials consider establishing a social district

Increasing downtown commerce goal

The Reed City city council is looking into the possibility of establishing a downtown "social district" where alcohol will be allowed during certain times. (Herald Review file photo)

The Reed City city council is looking into the possibility of establishing a downtown "social district" where alcohol will be allowed during certain times. (Herald Review file photo)

REED CITY -- In an effort to draw more commerce to the downtown area, Reed City officials are considering the possibility of establishing a social district.

The district would include the downtown and depot areas.

"In discussions with a friend who recently traveled to Rockford and Grand Rapids, where they have put in place a downtown area social district, I was intrigued with the idea," Mayor Roger Meinert said at a recent city council meeting. "We are looking for opportunities to support our downtown, to provide a more social atmosphere and community atmosphere and I think this is something can benefit our downtown area.

"Also, in looking at the Crossroads Festival, without having to put up fencing we could have a more open atmosphere," he added. "Maybe other festivals that are planned throughout the year could benefit from it, as well."

Michigan Liquor Control code allows for local governmental units to establish a designated social district within its jurisdiction, wherein any business "contiguous to the commons area" within the designated social district, if approved for and issued a permit, could sell alcoholic beverages to customers on their premises, who may then consume the beverages anywhere within the established commons area.

Councilman Trevor Guiles said having alcohol out in the open all the time might not be conducive to a family-friendly environment. He questioned whether maintaining control of the situation might be an issue.

"Having open alcohol out in the open all the time seems to me that it is not that controllable," Guiles said.

"Allowing people to consume alcohol on the sidewalks 365 days a year would certainly impact the number of complaints we would get, not to mention the issues of loitering and litter," Police Chief Chris Lockhart added. "I don't feel we have the manpower to effectively police that."

Lockhart suggested instead of having the social district 365 days a year, council considers starting out with having block parties.

"Council could enact the social district for a specific date and time," he said. "We could close down the 100 block of West Upton and have a block party and businesses could participate. That would allow us to keep the area more secure."

Lockhart added that he would be open to a shortened version of the social district, such as Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m., as well.

"The chief and I had a lengthy discussion about this, and I think all of his concerns are valid," Meinert said. "But, they lean on the side of thinking this is going to be abused. I'm on the side of having more faith in people to do the right thing and not cause problems. If we choose to do something like this, then those that participate can self-monitor."

Meinert said the area would be well-signed letting people know there is no alcohol allowed beyond a certain point and any open containers would have to come from one of the designated businesses.

"It would be something that would be branded with the businesses name on it and the individual would have to have a receipt for it," Councilman Nate Bailey said. "If they are not causing an issue, then they would not need to be checked."

"We recently went through a process of allowing people to use UTVs on city streets on a one-year trial basis," Bailey added. "Would you be opposed to something similar for this?"

Lockhart said he could get on board with something like that or starting out with the block party and transitioning into the social district after seeing how things went.

"We don't have to do it for a year," Meinert said. "We can do it for 60 days if we want. Once we establish the district, we can establish the hours - maybe do 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Once we establish the social district, then we can establish the boundaries and the times."

Bailey suggested they form a committee to look into it and get some ideas about what will work and how they might experiment with, getting input from the various stakeholders.

Council members agreed having a committee look into it would be the best first step.

Meinert said he would get with the chamber to see if they are interested in partnering with the city on the project, along with anyone else who is interested in volunteering and schedule a time to work on it.

The committee will plan to bring a proposal to the council at a later date, he added.


In other business, the council continues to look at possible uses for the Old Rugged Cross Museum building once it is vacated.

The museum board of directors plans to move the museum artifacts into the former McDowell Funeral Home building on Slosson Avenue this summer.

"We wanted council to be aware that this was being talked about at the planning commission," City Manager Ron Howell said. "They have gone on record as recommending to council that the building be used for a public indoor recreation facility. We have other groups that are weighing in and we are trying to get that information to you also."

Attorney Dave Porteous told the council that the first thing that needed to be done, before any plans could be made for the building, is to do a title search.

"That property, for my lifetime, has been woods and a park," Porteous said. "It was gifted to the city and what restrictions are on that, if any, we don't know. We know it was allowed for the museum to be built on it, but beyond that we need to check and find out. Sometimes there are unusual restrictions on land that is gifted to municipalities. A title search should be done to see what the restrictions are, if any."

Bailey said he would contact someone to see about getting the title search done.

Potential plans for the recreation facility would include adding on a gymnasium for indoor sports and providing rooms for classes and other activities that could be rented out to various groups.