Business owner using sheds to slow down vehicles driving through property

Mike Dershem — who purchased the former Mancino’s Pizza building with his wife, Ashley Osowski, earlier this year — thought it might slow down traffic if he set up sheds for sale on the northern edge of his property. His plan worked.

CADILLAC — Over the years, people have developed bad driving habits on the property at the corner of Mitchell and River streets, currently home to Twisted Bones and the Java coffee shop.

Twisted Bones owner Mike Dershem said he witnessed these bad habits firsthand one day when he was on a ladder cleaning out one of the gutters of the building, and was almost clipped by a vehicle speeding through the parking lot.

While nearly being knocked off an 8-foot ladder is scary, Dershem said the thing that concerned him most was the excessive speed of the vehicle, and the thought of a customer or child coming out of his business and being struck by it.

Dershem — who purchased the former Mancino’s Pizza building with his wife, Ashley Osowski, earlier this year — thought it might slow down traffic if he set up sheds for sale on the northern edge of his property.

Since he started doing this, he said traffic has slowed through his parking lot, as vehicles can no longer drive straight from the Twisted Bones property to the Java property.

What he didn’t realize, however, was that he needed approval from the city to store and sell the sheds onsite.

Last week, the Cadillac Planning Commission discussed Dershem’s request to continue selling the sheds.

During the meeting, Cadillac Community Development Director John Wallace commented that vehicle traffic through the property has become a bit of a mess over the years and would be worth addressing in some fashion, whether that be through the placement of sheds or some other barrier.

He said the situation is challenging in part because of the layout of the businesses and the multiple ways that vehicles can enter the property.

Commissioner Dale Rice commented that while he sympathized with Dershem’s intent, the appearance of the sheds seems “unnatural” and “out of place” with the surrounding area.

He also asked Dershem if there was any sort of assurance he could provide that he wouldn’t move the sheds closer to Mitchell Street than they already are. He said his concern was that they would block traffic sight lines.

Dershem responded that he’s instructed his shed provider (an Amish man who lives outside the city), not to place them beyond the back corner of the Java building. He said the Twisted Bones building was constructed at an angle to have a view of a long stretch of Mitchell Street to the north and he would never deliberately block that view.

Commissioner Joseph Baumann commented that the request was something he struggled with: On the one hand, the B-3 zoning of the property allows for the storage and sale of other types of items that are similar to sheds; on the other hand, Baumann said it seems like Dershem is trying to fix a traffic problem with a feature that doesn’t really fit with the area.

Commissioner Greg Bosscher asked Dershem if it would be possible to position the sheds on the west side of his property and use some other, less out-of-place feature on the northern side to slow down traffic.

Dershem said that this was possible, although commissioner John Putvin remarked that going this route may make the sheds less visible from the road and hurt sales of the units.

Wallace commented that there could be a number of different ways to block traffic through the property, including by installing fencing, landscaping elements and even bollards. Regardless of how it’s done, however, Wallace said it likely will have a beneficial impact, as vehicles won’t be inclined to enter the southernmost access point of the property to get to Java.

It was brought up during the meeting that Dershem and the owners of Java had previously been involved in a dispute over property lines. City attorney Laura Genovich said she wasn’t able to find any evidence that a lawsuit had been filed and Dershem confirmed that to his knowledge, up to this point it was just threats of a lawsuit. He added that the Java recently was purchased by another party, so it all might be a moot point now.

Following discussion, Baumann made a motion to approve a special land use permit to allow Dershem to continue storing and selling the sheds, with the stipulation that future legal decisions about the property may alter that permission. The motion passed 6-1, with Bosscher casting the lone dissenting vote.