Village Council: ‘We want to compromise with not closing off our roads.’

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Ortonville — Members of the Ortonville village council hosted a press conference this week to respond to criticism and questions they have received over the decision they made last month to deny the permit for Abigail’s Pride festival.
The permit was denied at the regular council meeting in February due to the road closure it requires, despite the road closure being approved in previous years. The council voted 5-1 vote to deny the event. Council member Tony Randazzo was the only person on council who voted to approve the event
Abigail’s Pride, founded by Brandon High School student Abigail Rowe, is a nonprofit organization with a goal of creating a safe, happy and healthy environment for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. They have hosted a pride festival in downtown Ortonville the past two years.
“We want to compromise with not closing off our roads,” said Village President Ken Quisenberry. “It’s a nice town, it’s a cute town, it’s a quaint town. But it’s fragile. There’s businesses that close down. Two pop up and three fold. Two more pop up and three fold. And it’s because of that fragile business thing that means that on a Saturday, especially the first Saturday in June, every one of our businesses is going to lose money. That can have a big impact on whether they even stay in business. Whether we even stay viable.”
Anyone wishing to speak for or against the permit for the Abigail’s Pride festival can do so at the regular village council meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, March 25, at the Brandon Township Hall, 385 Mill St., Ortonville.
Quisenberry said his main concern is for the businesses, and that he wants to protect the downtown businesses. He also said that other events that require road closures, such as Septemberfest and Christmas in the Village, are municipal sponsored events, whereas Abigail’s Pride is not.
“This is a historic event (Septemberfest) that has been going on for at least 42 years, if not longer. It is a joint celebration of our town between two municipalities. And those municipalities are Brandon Twp. and the village of Ortonville,” he said. “When municipalities are working together, that’s far, far different than a private entity or a private company or a private group that wants to close down our streets. If we want to close down our streets, they’re our streets to close down. But when somebody else needs it, it’s going to have to meet some different criteria.”
Both Septemberfest and Christmas in the Village were approved by the village council following the denial of the permit for Abigail’s Pride. Quisenberry said anyone is welcome to use the facilities downtown, but that the council doesn’t want the roads closed, and that any event is approved on a case by case basis.
“It’s welcome, it’s totally welcome by any group,” he said. “They’re allowed to use our facilities, we’re just not going to close the street. I don’t believe we should. Closing our streets means hurting our businesses.”
A number of downtown businesses have provided letters of support for the Abigail’s Pride event, all of which are available on the Ortonville website in the meeting packet for the canceled March 13 meeting.
“It all depends on who you ask. I could go there and interview each person and each business, and I know the answer I’m going to get is going to be somewhat filtered because they’re speaking to the village council president. And not just their next door neighbor,” he said. “Now, if someone from Abigail’s Pride goes in and asks that business the same question, they’re going to get a filtered answer as well. They might give me the answer the village president wants to hear. Is that the real answer, or the one that is meant for me? Are they getting the true answer, who knows?”
As village council president, Quisenberry is also a member of the Downtown Development Authority board, where he is able to speak to businesses through the relationship with the DDA.
“I get to hear all the feedback from the businesses who come to the meetings. There’s a good information flow between the business community and the village council,” he said. “I don’t want any business in this town to fail. The best that we can do as a village is to encourage downtown growth.”

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