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Spring 2016 Newsletter

By | Newsletter
Jim Lagowski

Jim Lagowski

President’s Message

In recent months, the Scenic Michigan Board of Directors and executive director have been working on a complete update of our strategic plan. This will guide our efforts for the next three to five years. A professional is helping facilitate and focus our planning efforts. While more needs to be done, and given our limited resources, it is already clear we need to concentrate on:

  • Long-term financial stability
  • Being a catalyst to encourage others who share our values
  • Developing strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations
  • In another part of this newsletter, you will learn how you can support us with a tax-free donation from your IRA.

Scenic Michigan Seeks New Board Members

Join our dynamic board and help preserve our scenic state

We are seeking several new board members to broaden our geographic coverage and professional strengths. If you share our values and have a passion for preserving and protecting Michigan’s scenic resources, please call us at 231-881-6266 or e-mail at Thank you for thinking about and supporting us.

City of Livonia Billboard Ban Challenged

Michael Fisher, Livonia Assistant City Attorney

Michael Fisher, Livonia Assistant City Attorney

Shortly after the City of Livonia was formed back in 1950, the City fathers drafted the city’s first zoning ordinance. Among other things, that original ordinance contained an outright ban on billboards, along with a grandfather clause protecting billboards already in existence. The last of those billboards came down in 1986, and Livonia has been billboard-free ever since. Perhaps needless to say, this is very unusual in the Detroit Metropolitan area: a 36-square-mile billboard-free zone crossed by two busy interstate highways—I-96 and I-275—and located just a couple of miles from the western boundary of the city of Detroit. Indeed, in the roughly two-mile wide zone outside Livonia’s borders, there are over 50 billboards!

While many motorists are no doubt glad for the brief respite they get while driving through Livonia, to the purveyors of billboards, a billboard-free zone is an anomaly subject to attack under a variety of legal theories. In 2001, a New York company called Nichols & Vann Media Group, LLC sued Livonia in the Wayne County Circuit Court, charging that the city’s billboard ban violated everything from the First Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Edward Thomas dismissed the suit in a very thoughtful 16-page opinion. The city was awarded the 2002 Scenic Michigan Award, and when Nichols & Vann filed its claim of appeal, Scenic Michigan offered to participate in the case by means of an amicus (sometimes called “friend of the court”) brief.

Fortunately, Nichols & Vann withdrew its appeal, and Livonia was left alone to enjoy its billboard-free existence. Until 2013, that is. That’s when International Outdoor, Inc., a Michigan billboard purveyor, began its challenge to the city’s billboard ban. International Outdoor began its challenge before the Livonia Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Its representatives argued that billboards (or their proposed billboards, anyhow) were necessary for local businesses, even though they couldn’t find a single local business to say so. In fact, the only business to address the matter argued that Livonia is a “city of quality” partly because it has no billboards.

Thwarted by the ZBA, International Outdoor filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court, arguing that billboards are, in effect, mandatory—communities are powerless to say no to the billboard people. Nichols & Vann had made essentially the same exclusionary zoning arguments over a decade earlier, and Judge Kathleen Macdonald, like Judge Thomas before her, upheld Livonia’s ordinance. So International Outdoor appealed to the Court of Appeals. Appellate briefing is now complete, including an amicus brief filed jointly by Scenic Michigan and the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Townships Association, the Public Corporations Section of the State Bar of Michigan, and Scenic America, and the parties are awaiting a schedule for oral argument.

Some nonparties are apparently waiting, too; rumor has it that Lamar Advertising is now scouting sites in Livonia.

New Tax Laws Benefit Nonprofit Organizations

Here’s how you can help Scenic Michigan

Last year, Congress and the IRS approved rules that let you donate tax-free funds directly from your IRA to any 501(c)(3) charity like Scenic Michigan. We hope you will consider this new tool to help support us.

Checks can be sent directly to Scenic Michigan or to our endowment fund c/o the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation: 616 Petoskey St., Suite 203, Petoskey, MI 49770.

Your accountant/CPA/tax attorney can give you details if needed.

Pure Michigan Byways Deserve Recognition

MDOT-managed program protects scenic highways and should be expanded

Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route

Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route

There are many benefits for a road that applies for and receives a Scenic Byway designation. These include preservation and economic, community, and educational benefits—all of which enhance the unique character of a particular region.

One important preservation benefit is the public recognition of the Pure Michigan Byway designation, which recognizes that the stretch of highway has unique scenic, historic, or recreational resources worthy of identification and preservation. An important aspect of preservation is to provide the community with the knowledge and background to encourage appropriate growth and management of the byway.

The economic benefits of a byway designation are numerous. The community can market the byway and the local attractions to encourage both tourism and enhance local businesses along the route. Potential for job growth and tourism-related development is also enhanced.

Part of the application process for the Pure Michigan Byway designation requires that the community engage in strategic planning and visioning. This visioning relates to the both the background of the stretch of highway and the justification for the designation, which requires the partnership of communities that enjoy access to the proposed byway.

Finally, a key part of the Pure Michigan Byway application process involves educating the community on the resources, information, and benefits of a byway designation. The lessons learned from the process are a great asset to any community who seeks to preserve and protect their scenic resources.

Scenic Michigan welcomes your input for additional byway designations. There are many scenic stretches of highways that would benefit both in terms of protection of scenic resources and an increase in tourism. A few that are worthy of mention include Highway 131 from Cadillac to Grand Rapids, Highway 10 from Sanford Lake, Highway 2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan in the eastern Upper Peninsula, and the Southwest Michigan area near Saugatuck.

Billboard Advisory Council Submits Recommendation

Recommendations of the Michigan Billboard Advisory Council, December 4, 2015

billboardsWith the passage of PA 2 of 2014, the Michigan Billboard Advisory Council was created.  The Council was charged with advising the Michigan Department of Transportation and the State Transportation Commission regarding voluntary agreements entered into under section 18b(1) of the Highway Advertising Act, lighting and any other general policy for the effective control of outdoor advertising.

Director Steudle appointed the following members in accordance with Section 252.318c:

  • Sen. Tom Casperson, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee
  • Rep. Peter Pettalia, Chair, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
  • Jerrold Jung, Chair, a representative of the Transportation Commission
  • Abby Dart, Scenic Michigan, a representative of the conservation community
  • Bill Jackson, a representative of the outdoor advertising industry
  • Kelly Wolgamott, Director of Marketing, MEDC, a representative of the tourism industry or a trade group that represents statewide tourism interests
  • Chris Graff, Hank Graff Chevrolet, a representative of the general public. Shall be a private sector lessee of billboard space whose business is located in this state
  • Ken Griffin, Director of Marketing, BOYNE, a sign owner that resides in the state

The council received staff support from Matt DeLong, Administrator of MDOT’s Development Services Division, Melissa Staffeld, Highway Advertising Specialist for MDOT and Phil Browne, Deputy Commission Advisor and Legislative Liaison, MDOT.

The council convened multiple meetings, engaging in extensive roundtable discussions regarding the current state of outdoor advertising and how it relates to the Department, the outdoor advertising industry, the advertisers and the motoring public. The Council was treated to presentations on a variety of topics including the current regulatory and statutory environment, industry trends, lighting, festival advertising, special challenges in underserved areas such as the Upper Peninsula, LOGO and TODS signage, Pure Michigan, and Scenic Routes. We would like to extend a special thank you to Mark Sherwood from Lamar Outdoor, Jerry Dobek from Northwestern Michigan College, and Mark Bott from MDOT for coming in to provide some of these presentations.

The Council makes the following recommendations to the Michigan Department of Transportation and the State Transportation Commission:

  1. The Department should develop a voluntary agreement regarding special event signs defined as a temporary advertising device not larger than 32 square feet in area erected for the purpose of notifying the public of noncommercial community events, including but not limited to fairs, centennials, festivals and celebrations open to the general public and sponsored or approved by a city, village, township, county, school or the state and listed on the Pure Michigan website so that they may be placed on private property with the owner’s consent no more than 30 days prior to the event and must be removed no later than 24 hours after the event. In developing this voluntary agreement, the Department should look at policies in other states.
  2. The Department should develop a voluntary agreement whereby billboard companies could be encouraged to best use technology where applicable to minimize the impact of lighting on the surrounding environment.
  3. The Department should develop recommendations whereby opportunities for signage in rural or scenic areas can be offered that would include a more rustic feel and be smaller than traditional billboards and fit with the fabric of the community in which they are placed. This agreement should be developed with stakeholder involvement.
  4. The Department and the State Transportation Commission should engage the legislature to review and revise the fee structure for outdoor advertising with accountability and transparency so that the administration of the Act, including but not limited to necessary information technology upgrades and enforcement actions are covered by the fees assessed under the Act.
  5. As the balance between natural beauty and outdoor advertising needs is an important facet of the laws and policies regarding outdoor advertising, continuation of dialogue on how to preserve existing natural beauty areas should continue.
  6. The Department should reconstitute a version of this Council to continue to develop the recommendations above for a duration not to exceed six months from the time of organization of a reconstituted Council.

Spring 2015 Newsletter

By | Newsletter
Jim Lagowski

Jim Lagowski

President’s Message

Spring is the ultimate bringer of change… snow melts, flowers bloom, trees bud, and people feel a sense of renewal. This year spring represents change for Scenic Michigan as well. You may have noticed our new Scenic Michigan logo! Thanks to very generous major donor support, we have contracted with the esteemed Public Sector Consultants for a redesign of our logo, letterhead and website. We are thrilled with our new look and can’t wait to showcase these products this spring with a complimentary social media campaign. Look for Scenic Michigan on Facebook and Twitter @Scenic Michigan.

We are very excited about these changes as well as our new office in Ann Arbor at 1100 North Main in historic Kerrytown. We are fortunate to be located in the New Center which houses not-for-profit organizations like Scenic Michigan. Very economical and strategically important as we work to build relationships with south-southeast Michigan, an important step in our long term survival and effectiveness. Our business office will remain for now in Petoskey. Say hello to our Executive Director Abby Dart when you are in Ann Arbor.

This location shift in day-to-day operations has already paid dividends, with Downriver (from Detroit) Mayors of 18 communities, a follow up to a presentation by Abby and longtime Board member Pam Frucci from Grosse Ile. We are working with Detroit officials on sign issues in that community. This Spring, we hope to be working with the 8 Mile Rd. Association, a consortium of 14 communities along the 8 Mile Rd. corridor from Lake St. Clair to Livonia. In the meantime distribution of our award winning Michigan Sign Guidebook continues.  If you or any one in your community would like a CD of this 200-plus-page document just ask.

Scenic Michigan’s 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival

This year the highlight of the event is a raffle of a cruise for two on the luxurious Haimark line to one of their 9 day itineraries to North, Central or South America! (air, port taxes not included. Subject to availability)

This year, the highlight of the event is a raffle of a cruise for two on the luxurious Haimark line to one of their nine-day itineraries to North, Central, or South America! (air, port taxes not included. Subject to availability)

This event is the major fundraiser for Scenic Michigan

Please join Scenic Michigan on Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4 to 7 P.M. for the 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival on the bay in beautiful Harbor Springs. The Festival features wine tastings from around the world, delectable appetizers from area restaurants and live music from the John Driscoll Ensemble. A highlight of the festival is the raffle which includes the chance to win one of several prizes ranging from gift baskets of wine and food to wine related packages. Tickets in advance are $20 and $30 at the door. Admission includes 2 tastings, a complimentary wine glass and complimentary food. Additional wine tasting tickets are $2 each or 6 for $10 or 12 for $20.

New this year is a $50 VIP pass which includes unlimited tastings and a signed poster by this year’s esteemed area artist Margaret Tvedten. In addition, VIP guests will have the opportunity to consult with special guest wine sommelier Tony Zanotti. Tickets will be available online beginning April 1, 2015 at and at area venues. VIP passes are available only online and are limited in quantity.

Check out the Waterfront Wine Festival on Facebook to see posters from previous years and to keep updated on all the Festival news!

Scenic Michigan to Present Cass Tech High School Senior with Scholarship

Scenic Michigan will be awarding the first annual Scenic Michigan $1,000 College Scholarship to a Cass Tech High School Senior who writes the winning essay on the topic of “Why community appearance is good for Detroit.”  The deadline for submission was April 1, 2015 and the award will be presented at the annual Cass Tech Scholarship event. One senior will be selected by the Scenic Michigan Board on the strength of his/her essay and the scholarship check will be presented by Executive Director Abby Dart and Board Members.

Cass Tech High School

Cass Tech High School

Scenic Michigan selected Cass Tech to highlight the Scenic Michigan’s work with the City of Detroit as a partner with community leaders who seek to revitalize and beautify the city.  Executive Director Dart commented that “It is so important for students, who are the future residents and leaders of Detroit, to see how scenic beauty plays a critical role in creating great cities.”  Cass Tech Guidance Counselor Walter Stevenson, Jr. thanked Scenic Michigan and noted “by allowing our students to compete for your generous scholarship award, you have opened yet another door of opportunity to our Technicians for the possibility of a more successful college experience!”

Scenic Michigan seeks to expand the scholarship program to additional schools in Southeast Michigan as funding becomes available.  If you are interested in donating earmarked funds for the scholarship program, please contact Abby Dart at

Detroit City Council May Allow Billboards in Downtown Business District

Change of zoning ordinance would reverse longtime prohibition against billboards

Possible billboard blight on the historic Detroit Guardian building

Possible billboard blight on the historic Detroit Guardian building

The Detroit City Council is considering amending its zoning ordinance to permit billboards, including digital billboards in the downtown business district.  Prohibited for over twenty years due to driver distraction and aesthetic concerns, new proposals from the Outdoor Advertising Industry have spurred the Council and Planning Commission to reconsider the regulations.

The proposal is still under review but it appears that historic buildings are not protected from digital displays and the area under consideration includes an area with several historic districts.  Scenic Michigan Board Member Larry Keisling and Executive Director Abby Dart appeared before the City of Detroit Planning Commission in February to share information and concerns about digital billboard.  Keisling, the former Planner for the City of Detroit, explained the issues regarding distraction and the intrusion into downtown dwellers, where last count indicated that over 6000 residents live in downtown Detroit.

Stay tuned for further updates as the proposal is discussed and debated by city officials.

 2015 is the 50th Anniversary of the HBA … Not a Reason to Celebrate!

Pamela Frucci

Pamela Frucci

The Highway Beautification Act signed into law in 1965 was initiated by Lady Bird Johnson. She had driven through Stowe Valley, Vermont, known for its ski resorts, and noted there were no billboards to spoil the snowy countryside. Her thoughts turned to having the whole country not billboard free but at least fewer in number and not so big and blaring. She convinced her husband President Lyndon Johnson that this country needed a strong billboard law limiting the number of billboards to only 5–6 per mile and size to no larger than 300 square feet. With President Johnson’s prodding, Congress passed the HBA.

Her proposal backfired when the Outdoor Advertising Association of America was called upon to write the rules of the act! The word from Congress was “They know something about billboards.” The OAA of America loves the Highway Beautification Act! They wrote the rules that billboards could be up to 212 per mile (two-sided) and up to 48,000 square feet (so that giant tire on I-94 would be legal). Back in Lady Bird Johnson’s time there were 300,000 billboards. Now there are 500,000!

While in Vermont in 1987, I talked to Tony Ciaraldi, the ski resort owner from Stowe Valley who, along with his sons, chainsawed all the—then—wooden billboards. Resort owners ended up advertising their resorts by word-of-mouth. It was Stowe Valley free of commercial billboards that attracted the attention of Lady Bird Johnson.

If you really want to get mad about how the billboard industry got away with covering America the Beautiful with billboards, read the article by Dr. Charles F. Floyd, professor and chair of the Dept. of Real Estate and Legal Studies at the University of Georgia in 1979 entitled “Billboard Control Under the Highway Beautification Act—A Failure of Land Use Controls.”

My first brush with billboards was in 1976, 63 years after reading an amazing story of how in the year 1913 the now State of Hawaii worked 14 years to finally remove the last billboard in their territory. I was inspired by how a group of bustled ladies in the organization Outdoor Circle campaigned to challenge the proliferation of commercial signs that they said were “ruining the health and beauty of Hawaii.” Up until then the billboard companies were unchallenged, but Outdoor Circle changed that!

In 1913 Outdoor Circle took over the entire issue of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser in Honolulu and filled it with anti-billboard messages. Children wrote essays on the detriment of billboards and photos of the worst billboards were printed in the newspaper. (I have a copy of that 1913 newspaper!) The women got a red rubber stamp with large letters that read “anti billboards” and stamped their envelopes, checks receipts, and letter heads. They got public sentiment on their side and in 1927 the last billboard came down. The then territorial governor signed legislation banning billboards. Today only three other states that are known for their scenic beauty—Alaska, Maine, and Vermont—ban billboards.

Scenic Michigan has been working since 1989 to preserve Michigan’s scenic beauty. Why? We embrace noted naturalist John Muir’s theory: “People need beauty as well as bread.” We won’t be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act or Michigan’s version of the act. Both laws don’t work! What’s beautiful about rows of commercial billboards along our highways?

Pamela A. Frucci (member since 1989)
Scenic Michigan Board of Directors

10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival

By | Waterfront Wine Festival
Painting by artist Margaret Tvedten

Painting by artist Margaret Tvedten

Please join Scenic Michigan on Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4 to 7 P.M. for the 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival on the bay in beautiful Harbor Springs. The Festival features wine tastings from around the world, delectable appetizers from area restaurants and live music from the John Driscoll Ensemble. A highlight of the festival is the raffle which includes the chance to win one of several prizes ranging from gift baskets of wine and food to wine related packages. Tickets in advance are $20 and $30 at the door. Admission includes 2 tastings, a complimentary wine glass and complimentary food. Additional wine tasting tickets are $2 each or 6 for $10 or 12 for $20.

New this year is a $50 VIP pass which includes unlimited tastings and a signed poster by this year’s esteemed area artist Margaret Tvedten. In addition, VIP guests will have the opportunity to consult with special guest wine sommelier Tony Zanotti. Tickets will be available online beginning April 1, 2015 at and at area venues. VIP passes are available only online and are limited in quantity.

winefestCheck out the Waterfront Wine Festival on Facebook to see posters from previous years and to keep updated on all the Festival news!

Fall 2014 Newsletter

By | Newsletter

President’s Message


Jim Lagowski

A continuing thanks to a major donor whose support has made it possible to increase our outreach efforts with local communities. This includes participation in five Michigan Township regional seminars, development of a new Scenic Michigan Power Point presentation already in use and additional meetings in Southeast Michigan to seek new opportunities for sign training workshops for local officials, using ourSign Guidebook.

Our new (small) office in Ann Arbor will further strengthen our presence in Southeast Michigan and provide new opportunities for financial support of our mission. Ann Arbor is a prime example of a city that took significant action to ban digital billboards and reduce blight with an effective sign ordinance. Kudos to the City Council.

With the assistance of Public Sector Consultants, we will be introducing an electronic version of our Scenic Michigan newsletter this fall. Please email our office at to provide us with your email address so that you don’t miss an issue and can keep up to date on our activities. Our Michigan Sign Guidebook, the best in the nation, is available on CD, at no cost, to anyone with an interest in good signage in their community. This includes our supporting members-you.

Albion College is completing work on an independent research study to confirm initial data that shows that while highway crashes have gone down in Michigan, they have increased near digital billboards. This critical information will be widely distributed as soon as the study is completed and we believe will be integral to limit digital billboards in Michigan.

Scenic Michigan is proud to welcome two new Board Members! Rory Bolger who has had a long career in planning and currently works with the City of Detroit and Megan Olds, also with a background in planning and assisting local government and conservation organizations, will be very strong advocates for Scenic Michigan.

Finally, don’t forget our new endowment fund, established last year, as we work towards long term financial stability. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate indicated a willingness to permit a tax free donation from an IRA to a
501(c)3 tax exempt organization like Scenic Michigan. More to come on this one.

Thank you for your continued interest in and for your financial support of our Mission!

Driven to Distraction

Toronto-based self described “community choreographer” Dave Meslin shares his excellent article about the hazards of digital billboards. Meslin compares the dangers of digital billboards to drivers with the early days of omnipresent cigarette smoke. What we know now is that smoking can kill you. What we also know now is that digital billboards distract drivers. Driver distraction is the number one cause of traffic fatalities. Read on for Dave Meslin’s very persuasive argument to ban digital billboards. Click here to read the full article.

Interview with Jordan Twardy


Jordan Twardy

Q. Can you provide us with an overview of the Eight Mile Boulevard Association and the mission of the association?

The Eight Mile Boulevard Association (8MBA) was founded in 1993 by the cities and counties along Eight Mile between I-275 and I-94, along with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. 8MBA exists to revitalize and promote the Eight Mile corridor by linking the public and private sectors, and we do so through a variety of programs and projects aimed at community and economic development.

Q. How long have you been the Executive Director and what is your background?

I was promoted to 8MBA Executive Director in February 2014. Before that, I was serving as 8MBA’s Director of Programs, a position I took in March 2012. Prior to my time at 8MBA, I worked in constituent service, planning and economic development for the City of Warren. I hold a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a Real Estate Development Certificate from the University of Michigan, along with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and History from Oakland University.

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Eight Mile Corridor and what are some steps you are taking to address them?

Eight Mile’s biggest challenge is its perception as a regional divider and by extension as a difficult place to do business. We actively address this challenge by working with our partners in the public and private sectors to remove barriers to investment, to address blight and to create physical progress on the corridor that people can see and feel. Together with our community partners, 8MBA created a comprehensive set of Design Guidelines to promote best practices in property design, landscaping, business signage and other elements to help raise the aesthetic standards for the corridor. We advance those guidelines through our Façade Improvement Program, which provides competitive cash grants to businesses who implement the guidelines on their property. In addition, we coordinate with local governments and MDOT to successfully deliver services such as consistent mowing and landscaping work for public rights of way. We also work with real estate developers in support of large, catalytic projects. In 2013, we celebrated the successful grand opening of Detroit’s first Meijer store at the Gateway Marketplace development at Eight Mile and Woodward. 8MBA served as a public advocate for the project and helped secure tax incentives to bring a vision that was more than 9 years in the making into reality. By promoting tangible, measurable change on Eight Mile, we are helping to change the corridor’s perception and revealing to the region that Eight Mile is a place where businesses and residents can thrive.

Q. I’m sure the funding issues so prevalent in Michigan these days, also impacts the cities along Eight Mile. How has your organization addressed this issue and are there creative ways to secure funding for community improvement that you could share with our readers?

Funding is definitely a prevalent issue, but 8MBA and our partners have become adept at leveraging our collective strength to do more with less. By coordinating our efforts and aligning plans wherever possible, we achieve results that would not have been possible alone. As we set our strategic priorities we make a point of identifying the goals and activities of our partners, focusing on areas of overlapping interests where we can partner. For example, 8MBA made it a priority in 2014 to support the revitalization of parks on or near Eight Mile. With a shoestring budget but lots of partners, we were able to align our efforts with the interests of the City of Detroit, the companies Tom’s of Maine and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, and the Michigan Nonprofit Association, allowing us to assemble $80K to revitalize two Detroit parks off Eight Mile Road. In this effort we combined two companies’ passion for positive change with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Adopt-a-Park Program and the efforts of two very dedicated nonprofit partners, along with residents in the neighborhood surrounding the park.


Q. I understand that the Eight Mile Boulevard Association is a public/private partnership of people working together to improve the look and quality of life along the Boulevard. What are some examples of the partnership in action?

8MBA couldn’t achieve its mission without collaboration between our diverse family of public and private stakeholders. As we pursue that mission, we often find that the greatest success is achieved when numerous stakeholders come together in ways they might not have previously done so before. The revitalization of Knudsen Park – currently under way for fall 2014 – brought together the City of Detroit, the company Tom’s of Maine, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and a group of residents. By leveraging the combined strength of business, community and government, 8MBA and our partners transformed a great idea into what is unfolding as a great project. Our public/private partnership acts in other ways to achieve success. Our Façade Improvement Program unites property owners with local planners and grant funders to facilitate private investment in the corridor. With every façade project we also inspire other businesses to get involved as word spreads about our program’s ability to improve property design while saving time and money. We also like to connect business and government with grassroots efforts to improve quality of life. Our annual “Clean the D” event unites students, corporations, church groups and businesses to remove blight, tend gardens and beautify the corridor.

Q. Scenic Michigan has long been focused on eliminating billboard blight and improving signage in communities. What is your sense as to how Scenic Michigan and the Eight Mile Boulevard Association can best work together?

8MBA has demonstrated a knack for finding ways to solve problems through partnership with stakeholders on all sides of an issue. Given our mutual interest in eliminating blight and improving signage, 8MBA and Scenic Michigan could bring stakeholders together, from municipalities to property owners, residents and billboard companies themselves, to come up with win-win solutions that achieve our shared goals.

Q. How can our readers learn more about the Eight Mile Boulevard Association? Are there Volunteer opportunities?

To learn more about 8MBA, visit us on the web at In addition to our annual Clean the D event held each May, we are always recruiting volunteers for projects throughout the corridor. You can contact us through our website if you would like to get involved!

Scenic Michigan Invites You to Support the new Endowment Fund

In 2013 a generous donor established the Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund with the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. The Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund will strengthen our organization while also offering our generous donors an opportunity to support our important mission for generations to come. The Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund is a simple and efficient way to build income for our organization. Our donors can be sure they are providing a source of lasting, permanent support.

A Solid Partner with the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation

The Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund is part of the Community Foundation’s pool of endowed assets. Thus, The Community Foundation’s economies of scale provide our organization the benefits of a diverse investment portfolio that typically come only with larger funds. The Community Foundation’s staff works closely with our staff and donors to help develop planned giving programs to assist our donors with bequest giving, gifts of stock or other assets which will benefit our fund and add to the long-term growth of our organization.

Every spring, the Community Foundation lets the club know what income we have available (market conditions permitting). The Community Foundation handles all the investment and administrative details – including investment management, donor acknowledgements, and quarterly reports. This gives us the time to do what we do best…to preserve, protect, and enhance Michigan’s scenic resources.

Ways you can support the Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund at the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation:

  • Cash: You can make a gift by check in any amount, or encourage your donors to contribute to your fund for a special occasion, such as a birthday or holiday. We offer easy-to-use, online giving by credit card, also.
  • Securities: Donate appreciated stock or bonds and avoid capital gains taxes. Your donors may claim a charitable tax deduction for the securities’ current market value. We request that donors call us before making this type of gift.
  • Estate Planning: Your supporters can leave a legacy to your organization by including your fund with the Community Foundation in their will or trust. They may also name your organization as a beneficiary of retirement assets or insurance policies. Your supporters can also accomplish their charitable goals with a Charitable Gift Annuity – a gift that provides income for them or a loved one for life.

Contact us to learn how you can support the Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund

Abby Dart, Executive Director, Scenic Michigan | (231) 881-6266 or
David Jones, Executive Director, Community Foundation | (231) 348-5820 or

Pellston Couple Win Billboard Lawsuit

By | News

Billboard owner ordered to remove it.

It took Elaine and Harold Sevener of Pellston nine months of diligent research and thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, but they won their battle against the firm that has owned and maintained a double decker billboard on their property opposite Pellston Regional Airport for the past 15 years.

The billboard which Emmet County District Judge Richard May has ordered removed by June 30 is one of more than a dozen that line airport row on U.S. 31, the largest concentration of billboards on one stretch of roadway in the county….

… The Sevener case turned on whether the Seveners notified the billboard company of their intent to terminate the lease at least 60 days before its actual termination date. Under the terms of the lease, failure to do so would have automatically renewed the lease for another 15 years.

The updated lease which the Seveners were assigned when they purchased the property nine years ago stated that the 15 year term of the lease began with the construction date of the billboard structure.

Outdoor Advertising later stated that the structure was built in May 1988, but state law prohibits erection of a billboard without a permit, which Outdoor Advertising obtained in mid-August, 1988.

The Severners, backed by MDOT, argued that the term of the lease began Aug 12, 1988 and thus the deadline for them giving notice of intent to terminate was Aug 12, 2003, not Jan 15, 2003, as Outdoor Advertising claimed.

The difference was critical because the Seveners sent Outdoor Advertising letters on April 29 and May 4, 2003 advising them that they wanted the sign removed from their property….

…Elaine Sevener said that she believes May based his decision on a finding that Aug 15, 1998 was the actual start of the lease and she and her husband had therefore notified Outdoor Advertising of their intend in time to avoid automatic renewal of it.

4th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival

By | Waterfront Wine Festival
Wine Festival

Photos courtesy of Fred Gray.

Over 500 people attended the 4th Annual 2009 Waterfront Wine Festival (June 26, 2009) benefiting Scenic Michigan, making it the most successful event  in its 4 year history. Guests enjoyed sampling a wide variety of both regional and international wines, select gourmet cheese from Symons General Store and Wine Cellar, all to the fabulous jazz sounds of the John Driscoll Ensemble.

CMU Public RadioA special thank you to CMU Public Radio, the official media partner of the 4th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival.

Join us on June 25, 2010 for the 5th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival in beautiful Harbor Springs. Click here for more information.

Scenic Michigan Presents 2007 Hero Award to Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association

By | News

_wsb_465x355_ScMi+003+vintners+assoc+award+4+webScenic Michigan has presented the 2007 Scenic Hero Award to the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association. Accepting the award for the Association, was Adam Satchwell, President of the Leelanau Vintners Association and the winemaker for Shady Lane Cellars. The award is given to individuals or organizations that make a significant and lasting contribution to preserving and protecting the scenic character of Michigan’s roads and communities.

According to Scenic Michigan President Bethany Goodman, “The Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association are true scenic heroes for their commitment to not participate in billboard advertising to promote their wineries. The Association believes that to preserve the scenic beauty of the Leelanau Peninsula, residents and visitors to their wineries deserve a view from the road that is not marred by the blight of billboards. Instead, they have chosen to promote their world-class wineries through other means, such as an excellent website and many media publications. We commend and applaud their vision and hope the Vintners will set an example for businesses throughout Michigan.”

Scenic Michigan Presents 2007 Hero Award to Senator Tom George

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_wsb_321x354_Sc+Mi+008+sen+Tom+George+awardScenic Michigan presented the 2007 Scenic Hero Award to Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo) at the Capitol on September 12, 2007. The award is given to individuals or organizations that make a significant and lasting contribution to preserving and protecting the scenic character of Michigan’s roads and communities.

According to Scenic Michigan President Bethany Goodman, “Senator Tom George sponsored legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Granholm in December of 2006, that prohibits new billboards in Michigan and caps the numbers of billboards in Michigan at existing levels. Senator George is truly a Scenic Hero for his longstanding commitment to protect the view from the road. We commend Senator George for the enactment of this legislation which is so valuable to all who appreciate Michigan’s outstanding scenic beauty and seek to protect this beauty for future generations.”

Lamar’s First Punch to Elmira Township

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Issues: First Amendment free speech rights; Unlawful prior restraint on commercial speech; Township’s refusal to allow plaintiff to go forward with billboard construction along a state highway on the basis of later-enacted ordinances; Michigan’s Highway Advertising Act (MHAA); Whether plaintiff’s claims were ripe for review; Williamson County Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City

Court: U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan

Case Name: Lamar Adver. Co. v. Township of Elmira

e-Journal Number: 24114

Judge(s): Lawson

Since plaintiff satisfied all the requirements of the applicable laws in place when it applied for permission to erect the billboard at issue, defendant-township’s refusal to permit plaintiff to go forward with construction of the billboard along a state highway on the basis of the township’s subsequently enacted ordinance constituted an unlawful prior restraint of commercial speech.

Plaintiff, as part of its outdoor advertising business, builds billboards on locations it leases or owns and then charges advertisers a fee for displaying commercial and noncommercial messages on its billboards.

When plaintiff applied for permits to construct the billboard, only the Michigan Department of Transportation had jurisdiction to regulate the area where the billboard was to be located — the township had not yet enacted an ordinance under the MHAA.

The court concluded it was plain from the undisputed facts plaintiff’s application should have been granted under the rules in effect as of its application date and the township deprived plaintiff of its First Amendment rights by denying plaintiff a permit based on an improper interpretation of the zoning ordinance. The law in effect when plaintiff filed its applications did not disallow construction of a billboard at the location in question.

Plaintiff was granted summary judgment.

Read the Full Opinion Here