City wants compromise with Grandville swim school facing closure

Kent County

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — There’s newfound hope for the fate of Miss Rita’s Swim School as Grandville officials reiterate their commitment to working with the owner to make the necessary changes to follow a city ordinance.

Rita Shalhoup — better known as Miss Rita — received a letter saying her swim school of 33 years was not complying with the city ordinance after officials received complaints from neighbors. Shalhoup was faced with the choice of shutting down or facing legal action from the city.

Grandville City Council member Justin Noordhoek said he considered two things last fall when voting on whether to ease the home occupation ordinance to allow for outdoor-based businesses like dog walking or swim lessons.

“Is what Miss Rita is doing valuable to our community? To me, the answer is yes,” Noordhoek said. “The second question was, ‘Would I want to be her neighbor?’ The answer to that was no. So, I really thought there has to be a compromise here.”

Noordhoek said the compromise came last October when the ordinance was amended, setting parameters for which outdoor-based home occupations, like Miss Rita’s Swim School, most follow.

“I really felt the planning commission had drawn up a really great ordinance that was sufficient, so for this to be popping up a year later, I’m really surprised by that,” he said.

City officials say the matter resurfaced last month when Shalhoup started up her summer swim sessions, operating her business in a way that violates the recently amended ordinance, like excessive noise and traffic congestion.

“If you choose to operate in a neighborhood, you need to operate in a way that is sensitive to the neighborhood’s needs and rights, and that’s been the concern,” Grandville City Manager Ken Krombeen said. “So, our City Council certainly tried to find a balance, so it’s never been about putting anyone out of business.”

It comes back to compromise and communication, as it’ll be up to Shalhoup to scale back her operation to the point of compliance.

“When you have that kind of an impact, that number of people, that number of cars, 75 kids each coming with a parent, you’re getting beyond a neighborhood scale and need to reduce your location or find a location that better handles that,” Krombeen said.

Krombeen and Shalhoup told News 8 Thursday evening that they’d both be willing to sit down and discuss the changes needed to be made to be in compliance with the ordinance.

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