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Banner on councilwoman's home violates sign ordinance

Marie Havenga • Aug 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM

A political banner hanging from the deck of Ferryburg City Councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy's home violates the city's sign ordinance.

Lisa Royce, a supporter of Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg’s campaign for mayor, notified City Manager Craig Bessinger about the sign, which supports Councilwoman Rebecca Hopp’s mayoral campaign.

The city's sign ordinance allows signs of up to 6 square feet.

“I haven't measured it, but it's bigger than 6 square feet,” Bessinger said. “I did notify ... Kennedy that that sign was too large. She said it wasn't her sign. She said it was her husband's sign.”

Bessinger said he sent a letter to the Kennedy home this week that states that the sign must be removed within five days or a resulting $50 fine and court costs would kick in.

Kennedy has made no secret of her support for Hopp. She appeared at Tuesday’s candidates forum at Ferrysburg City Hall wearing a shirt promoting Hopp.

“I am not taking any responsibility for that sign,” said Kennedy, who also serves on the city’s Planning Commission, which recently reviewed the city's sign ordinance. “That's Barry's (her husband) sign.”

Kennedy said she knew her husband was putting up the banner at their Smith's Bayou home. The 22.5-square-foot banner is visible from Smith's Bridge.

“I'm like, all right, it's your house, too,” Kennedy said. “The sign was put up on June 30. They started complaining about it on July 30.”

Kennedy said she was aware of the sign ordinance's size restriction, but said she was not aware that a banner was considered a sign.

“We had a banner up when my daughter got married and nobody said anything,” she said. “People put up banners when people in the military come home. Is it a sign? It's a banner.”

Kennedy said complaining about the banner is “an act of desperation” on the part of Sjoberg’s supporters.

“If they paid more attention to their campaign instead of Rebecca's campaign, they would be doing better,” she said. “I've talked with a lot of people and I don't see (Sjoberg) going through to the primary.”

Hopp and Sjoberg are challenging incumbent Mayor Dan Ruiter in the Aug. 8 primary. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November election.

Barry Kennedy said if he receives a written notice, he will remove the sign.

“We're not troublemakers,” he said. “We'd obviously comply.”

Royce said something similar happened in 2003 when Kennedy, then a Spring Lake Township trustee, was part of a recall attempt, along with trustees Lou Draeger and Larry Mierle. A sign on a semi-trailer parked near 148th Avenue and M-104 blasted the message to “vote no” on the recall attempt.

“If we're expected to follow the law, why shouldn't they be?” Royce said. “We fought this battle 14 years ago. That's why it really bugs me. She thinks she can do it again.”

Royce said she approached Kennedy after the candidates forum Tuesday night to ask her about the sign.

“She ignored me and kind of went behind her husband,” Royce said.

Royce said she should be able to ask questions of her representatives/council members in a public setting.

“I'm asking my representative why she's in violation of the sign ordinance,” Royce said. “Rebecca Hopp's name is on it. She's also in violation if she's allowing her name on an illegal sign. I find it ironic. Our own city councilwoman and mayor candidate don't think they have to follow the rules. You don't get a bigger political voice than me and I'll make sure of it.”

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