ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — A ballot proposal in the city of Allegan has turned a downtown park into a political battlefield.
On March 10, voters will weigh in on a proposal in which the city would sell part of Mahan Park to developers looking to build a downtown hotel in its place.
The exact wording of proposal 2020-2 will be:
“Shall the City of Allegan be authorized to sell .33 acres of land in Mahan Park for development as a hotel, as part of a transaction in which at least .38 acres of new park land are added to Mahan Park?”
On one side of the debate, a group of community members, referred to as Friends of Mahan Park, are urging the community to vote no.
Though the developers plan to move and redesign the downtown park as part of the hotel development, the opposing group wants to “retain the unique jewel that is Mahan Park.”
Austin Kreutz, a member of Friends of Mahan Park, said he doesn’t believe the redesigned park would be as spacious or as nice.
The other problem that you have with this is that people are saying you’re growing the park, but we’re actually not … ” Kreutz said. “There’s no guarantee that we will be able to have … the same amount of space. We will actually have less space.”
Other community members who are also against the plan believe it will ruin the historical significance of the park which was dedicated to Dr. James Mahan in 1984.
“I’m one of the babies that Dr. Mahan delivered,” Mary Colborn said. “He delivered all of my siblings and got me through countless bouts of strep throat. He was really a beloved small-town doctor.”
Colborn along with many other residents don’t want to see the memorial wall that’s dedicated in Mahan’s honor be taken down or moved to accommodate the hotel’s construction.
On the other side of the debate, a group referred to as Friends of the Riverfront are encouraging the community to vote yes on the proposal and see the hotel as a big economic opportunity for Allegan.
If the proposal passes, the developers plan to move and redesign the park, bringing Mahan’s name with it.
“When people come in and stay in a nice hotel … I think that’s going to have a ripple effect to all the other downtown businesses,” Friends of the Riverfront supporter Gerah Dutkiewicz said.
Dutkiewicz said he was hesitant at first about moving the park, until she learned the details of the developer’s plans.
“It’s not going away. It’s just going to shift and actually be expanded and improved,” Dutkiewicz said.
On Thursday, the Allegan Chamber of Commerce publicly endorsed the proposal.
“We have full confidence and faith in our city’s staff, commission members and citizens of Allegan who will demand that Mahan Park be enhanced and improved along with the hotel development.” the commerce said in a statement.
Matt Flora, the owner of a hair salon in downtown Allegan, is already brainstorming ways to collaborate with the hotel.
“I love the idea of having the hotel right next door to my salon,” she said. “We would work with them to give guests spa packages and stuff.”
The city of Allegan has provided information on proposal 2020-2, if you would like to learn more.