Grand Haven City Council on Monday night decided not to allow Brad Boyink the opportunity to have the light show in Grand Haven — a move that caused Boyink to abruptly turn in his keys to the Musical Fountain and resign from all volunteer activities with the city.
“Over the past 18 years, I’ve been proud to be a volunteer to many city projects,” he said. “To me, the city has always been a community that cares about its citizens. It’s turned its back on a worthy charity.”
Boyink had proposed that the show, which typically raises more than $30,000 a year for Special Olympics, to take place along Franklin Avenue near downtown. It would’ve been similar to what Boyink set up in his Spring Lake Township neighborhood in 2011 and indoors at The Pointes strip mall in Norton Shores last year.
"We do feel it would have been a worthy location and helped businesses out, and done something special for charity in the city," Boyink said.
In spite of Boyink’s optimism that the plan would work, a majority on City Council felt the proposal lacked details about traffic flow.
There were major concerns about how the plan would impact holiday business traffic.
“It sounded interesting in the beginning, but the devil is in the details,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “I’m not willing to experiment with the livelihood of our merchants downtown.”
The mayor said the holiday season is a major sales time for local merchants that will tide them over until spring, and bringing a massive amount of traffic to downtown might hinder those sales.
The city's Main Street Downtown Development Authority recommended that council say no to the light show on Franklin. Authority Vice President George Gardner reiterated McCaleb's concern about how the show might negatively impact business.
“I support the DDA’s recommendation, and that is because the shopping season for the downtown merchants is so important to them,” he said. “I’m just concerned people will avoid the downtown and not want to go down there."
Noting that the show on Franklin is unproven, Gardner said it would be too big of a risk to take.
“I just think this is not a good idea to try and experiment when we don’t know what the impact will be on businesses,” he said.
Not everyone on council was opposed to the plan, though; some felt it would be worth it to see what it might do for the community. Council voted 3-2 to reject the proposal, with councilmen Bob Monetza and Mike Fritz supporting it.
Monetza said it is “a show worth doing.”
“This is a case of fear versus opportunity,” he said. “We see all these bad things that could happen, but there’s good things that could happen.”
Recalling the light show on Harbor Island a few years ago, Grand Haven resident Roger Starkweather said he thought Franklin Avenue was a better location for it. He also noted that access could be maintained to downtown shops.
“To me, access to downtown for shopping could come from Washington and Franklin,” he said.
The rejection by Grand Haven for the show follows Boyink pulling his proposal in July to stage the synchronized light show in Ferrysburg's Coast Guard Park. There he faced vocal opposition mainly from one member of Ferrysburg City Council.