FERNDALE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Ferndale is set to lose a substantial amount of parking spots thanks to a mix-used development approved by city council.
Businesses in the area are not happy about it.
The owners of Howe’s Bayou and Belle’s Lounge next to Valentine Distilling Company filed a lawsuit, claiming the city entered into the agreement knowing they were violating their own ordinance.
The building is set to go up in a privately owned parking lot on 141 Vester Avenue.
“Did you expect on your 25th anniversary you would be suing the city of Ferndale,” 7 Action News asked Michael Hennes, the owner of Howes Bayou.
“I never thought it would ever come to that,” Hennes responded.
Howes Bayou has been a staple business in Ferndale for a quarter century.
Hennes used to chair the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority, making him painfully aware of the city’s parking crisis.
“At that time, we commissioned studies — parking studies — that show there was a significant parking issue here. Nothing’s changed except we added restaurants,” Hennes said.
Back in 2022, the city of Ferndale approved a mix-used development at 141 Vester Avenue. It would sit in a privately owned parking lot eliminating 76 spaces.
“The parking situation in Ferndale I think is worse than Detroit. I mean, it is just difficult to find a spot,” David Vaillieencourt, a Howes Bayou customer, said.
Hennes and Rifino Valentine, owner of Belle’s Lounge and Valentine Distilling Company, are now suing the city and the developer, listed as Sturgeon Bay Partners on the city’s website.
“I love this town and we want to see the town prosper and succeed. It just can’t be at the expense of the businesses that help build Ferndale,” Valentine said.
The suit alleges Ferndale’s zoning actions were far outside their legal authority and contrary to the city’s own ordinance, which states the city can’t eliminate parking without creating new parking to replace it.
“It is really going to be detrimental if this is allowed to go through,” Valentine said.
Hennes echoed Valentine’s statements.
“It is sad. I think about employees,” Hennes said. “I think this might be the thing that breaks us.”
The city manager says they haven’t been served the lawsuit yet, so they cannot offer comment. He did say the city owns four parking lots within two to three blocks, with a sum total of 262 spaces.
City council has a meeting on June 12 where they will discuss a proposed tax incentive for the developer.