War of the Roses: Veteran with PTSD Files Lawsuit with City of Ludington Over Siren

Eleven days ago, the Ludington City Council came out of a closed session and voted to have the city attorney negotiate the siren controversy with the attorney of Nathaniel Rose, a veteran allegedly suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Those seem to have failed.  The siren located at Copeyon Park, effectively across the street from where Rose lives, reportedly triggers his condition.  TV 9 & 10 broke the story this afternoon, which follows:

A lawsuit filed in Michigan Federal District Court on Friday against the City of Ludington is asking for the Copeyon Park siren to be disconnected.

The siren used to be stationed at the former fire department in Ludington, alerting firefighters to an emergency.

It was moved to Copeyon Park in 2019,and reconnected in 2021.

The plaintiff of this case is a veteran, who is suffering from PTSD, and says the siren going off twice a day violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA).

“My client, who is a decorated war veteran, was in a forward combat area often, and the siren that Ludington blows is the same sound that my client faced when he was overseas in the service,” said James Koning, Attorney at Law. “Starting last fall, when the city reconnected the siren, things really started going downhill as far as my client’s PTSD is concerned, as far as his relationship with his wife and relationship with his children.”

Koning is representing a Ludington man, and his wife, in the lawsuit—named John and Mary Doe in the complaint.

“The American with Disabilities Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act basically requires cities not to fail to reasonably accommodate those that are disabled,” said Koning. “Our position is the reasonable thing to do, to shut this off. There is no real reason to have this alarm go other than nostalgia and that they like to hear it.”

Koning said Mary tried to reason with the city, especially with members of the city council.

“My client’s wife went to the city on several occasions and asked if there was something they could do.” said Koning. “The best way to describe it is that she was basically given the finger, was told things like, ‘oh your husband is a VA candidate, so therefore, you get free services to help him adapt to the siren’ or things like ‘you’ll get used to it’.”

He said he’s asked the city to negotiate, but he said the city has had a firm stance in keeping the siren.

“If a city knows that it is causing harm to a disabled individual, and there’s not good reason for it, then that’s a violation of federal law,” Koning said.

The City Manager Mitch Foster said the city just received the lawsuit on Friday, and has yet to review its contents.

“We will be reviewing it as a group including our liability carrier who will also be reviewing this for a liability claim on our insurance,” said Foster. “This is a sensitive issue that matters a great deal to the complainants as well as those other folks, so we want to be as diligent and as careful as possible as we address this.”

Koning said he wants to hold the City of Ludington responsible.

“You can’t run a city just by what people want and ignore the United States Constitution,” he said.

The City of Ludington may have future legal issues regarding the two closed sessions they held and their reluctance to offer a timely response to a FOIA request asking for records associated with the siren controversy.  The justification they offered to go into closed session both times involved the invocation of client-attorney privilege with the city attorney, yet nobody with that authority has ever claimed the privilege, which isn't automatic.  Had they decided to conduct the business of deliberating what to do with the siren in an open meeting, perhaps they could have avoided the problem(s) they find themselves currently in.

UPDATE 3-26-22, 1:15 PM:  We have a link to the lawsuit right here feel free to comment with your impressions of it in the forum below.

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SCREW this veteran and his attorney, they both deserve a butt kicking now. And screw any courts that entertain this complaint, into infinity.

I hope you wrote this in jest, to get a stir out of people.

Good conclusion in your last sentence, X, but I think even if the discussions had been open, the decisions would be the same. The Ludington city council is a group of hard-heads bent on getting their own way, disregarding citizen input. I feel for the Roses, and if for no other reason, I hope they prevail, in order to teach Ludington city council to listen and be compassionate to its citizens.

I find calling people (citizens, taxpayers) "those other folks" offensive and a display of the problem. It strikes me as arrogant, offensive, derrogatory and demeaning name calling--those who laugh behind closed doors at the residents who pay their wages. The only way to get the city to listen is to sue them, and sadly, for the taxpayer foots the bill in the end. Wake up you over paid city administration "folks," come down from your high horses and listen.

I agree with you that if the discussions had been out in the open that the council would have only dug a deeper hole, since even on their bestest days, the current council has three reasonable people, which always leaves a majority of hardheaded fools to screw everything up.  

The current siren issue reminds me somewhat of the splash pad issue in a few ways.  In both cases, the issue of location of each was effectively decided in a Cemetery, Parks, and Recreation Committee chaired by a Fourth Ward councilor who politically desired each (Mike Krauch, then Cheri Stibitz) leading them both to champion Copeyon Park.  Meanwhile, in both cases there were several other locations that were desired by the folks, but enough of the influential NIMBY crowd in these centralized areas that wanted to push the pad and siren to 'remoter' areas. 

In each case, a lawsuit was filed with ADA issues.  If you remember, the splash pad was envisioned without any nod to ADA accessibility, as someone in a wheelchair cannot even get into Copeyon Park without going down a hill that has a slope that is unsafe, and leaving by going up a hill that is too steep.  They still haven't mitigated those issues and the pavement inside the park does not facilitate safe wheelchair traffic between the pad and the bathroom.  

I would like the siren to stay because I think it does have a community purpose, but city hall has lost my support by not complying with the OMA in trying to solve the issue outside of the purview of the general public.  Now that a lawsuit has been filed, the two pieces of 'written correspondence' claimed to have AC privilege should be made available to the public since their implied intent was to keep the COL from contending with a nascent lawsuit.  The COL will undoubtedly take issue and find themselves embroiled in another lawsuit for their reluctance to conduct themselves properly and legally.  

When the siren came down and the fire station had been removed and replaced with housing, the writing was on the wall for the Ludington's favorite noise maker. They should have left things well enough alone and let it rest in peace in a storage shed. No matter where the City decided to revive it there was going to be a conflict. The original location was far enough away from residential areas where it had been long established as an icon. Now it's just a legal problem created by the same city hall that has brought more conflict than the invasion of Crimea. Who in there right mind would even consider having this noisy beast near their homes? Nobody I know. Personally I don't mind it and it's nostalgic connection to the past as long as it stayed where it was with  the approval of new condo and apartment dwellers. Living in the past with established landmarks and attractions is one thing but trying to resurrect a screaming machine just to remember the good old days just isn't going to work. There's no going back!

The Council definitely did not approach the siren situation with the concerns of the folks in the 4th ward in mind. If  one were to look at a map of Ludington it will show the contempt the Council has for the 4th ward. The same contempt it has historically demonstrated including the sewage fiasco in the bayou, giving the finger to the private marina's, pollution pouring into PM lake and in general just looking down their noses at 4th ward residents. For those who consider the siren an icon you should consider where and why the location it now occupies was chosen. If all the people who wanted the siren to keep singing it would have made sense to locate it in a central location where all of the City could enjoy it but strangely the location picked is tucked away far from the majority of City residents where the lucky 4th warders can receive it's full impact. There should be more equitable distribution of the sirens music, in my opinion.

One got the feeling that city leaders were trying to move the siren's location from the Loomis and Robert Street area because of the heavier concentration of transients/tourists staying in the downtown region of Ludington, most of who do not have any sentimental attachment to the noisemaker.  I am not surprised that the 4th Ward was chosen, because most of those residents are traditionalists in my estimation and Councilor Stibitz believed she was doing the right thing for her constituents.  Since the move was across the city to an edge, it lessens some of the city's potential defenses, and it gives the Rose's a better shot at success in stifling the siren.

I agree, Willy ... "stick it to 'em in 4th Ward just like they did with the added congestion and traffic from a splashpad which got booted out of two other locations downtown.

The chair of the splashpad committee, Stephanie Reed, herself pleaded for the splash pad to be set in the Waterfront Park green until there was a final push with the "crying girl Council meeting" to put it in Copeyon. And we never received any rationale, just a lot of people propped up to bolster the city administration desires.

Somehow, someone perhaps with deep pockets spoke silently and secretly and it was basically determined before it ever went to the-then-secret Parks committee, penned by John Shay about 18 months before it came to public that the splash pad would be put in Copeyon. (I'm sorry I don't have backup documentation just now, but it was found in Discovery in the case Tom and I took on). There was no rationale as I remember, just John Shay's dictate.

I moved out of town. I hated to give up my dreamhouse retirement sunset view but now that I've been gone for a few months, I'm glad I don't have to put up with all the continuing politics of Ludington. I'm bitter against the heavy-handed administration and will think twice about living in a city again, but Tom and I prevailed on at least one important aspect: the city now has to notice to the public the date, and provide minutes for subcommittee minutes (Parks and Rec, etc.). The city had operated for decades behind closed doors: three people (majority of two vote) of a subcommittee make decisions and pass the recommendation to the City Council which rarely votes against the subcommittee.

As far as the siren, the prevailing westerly winds at that location really pick up the wind and multiply the sound. Maybe it sounds a bit petty to sue over it, but at ten p.m. the noise would certainly wake me up, and I'd probably be irritated mostly because the noise was forced upon me.

I agree with those who said to put the siren down at the beach where the majority of kids hang out. That seems to be the best use of the siren today. Curfew the kids off the street. Noon is kind of a friendly reminder as to what time it is, in case your stomach isn't grumbling.

I understand the ideas behind this lawsuit, I definitely understand the prior lawsuit's rationales and it's clear the city in both instances had little regard for the noise/nuisance aspects of the two projects for neighboring properties, though they should have if they were reasonable, as numerous sites downtown were overlooked due to perceived NIMBYism of those residents and businesses.  

We were both in agreement that government projects of this nature should have to go through the Planning Commission.  Any individual or business that decides to put up a siren or a community splash pad on their land would have to go through the process of sending notices out to neighboring properties and having a public hearing, etc., so why should the government get a free pass (even when it is presumed the appointed PC members will approve them due to their fealty to the body politic)?

Nevertheless, I find it odd that it took many months after the fact for this couple to come forward, odd that only the evening siren is too offensive, odd that it's being rushed through, and odd that I get the overall impression that its impact on this veteran's PTSD is being overplayed by plaintiffs and their attorneys.

X, leave out your last paragraph and it all seems very clear. It doesn't matter how many months went  by. He may have been trying to adjust to the noise, who knows?  Could be he was not home much during the day but may have been there every night. I don't know how any legal battle in Ludington can be rushed through. It also doesn't matter regarding the PTSD. If the City went about the installation of the siren in an underhanded and sneaky way as they have done on many other issues then a law suit was going to be inevitable. He had the guts to file it and take any crap others may dish out. 

Look at the lawsuits you have filed. There are a lot of folks that have accused you of knit picking and causing trouble [I don't agree] but you were determined to see that things were done in a legal  and proper way. I see no difference in this case. Everyone has a right to challenge how a Governmental entity does business and so does he.

There seems to be a lot of rock throwing at the Roses for filing a law suit against the City's underhanded method of forcing the siren on an unsuspecting area which happens to be near the extreme southern boundary of town where the reasons for the siren's existence makes no sense.

Well y'all bring up good points. And LL, interesting about a potential move. What major problem I found living on S. Washington and the potential for business re-development there (and I contemplated buying the beautiful historical building the Rose's did) is PARKING. I spoke to former Councilor Krauch about this and the need for traffic control in the area and he displayed abysmal ignorance and apathy in saying something  to the effect "that nothing needs to be done." I can see why the Rose's may have a hard time garnering a brisk business with the traffic and parking situation and may wish to move. Our Planning Dept. has regressed and are turning a blind eye to parking needs and standards, imo for good business development.

Why did 4th Ward business fail in the first place?  How much did availability and ease of parking contribute?

As far as the Rose's returning to downtown,  with lawsuit money, I find that hard to believe.  If after suing a city with a lot of backlash, I would think they would get out of Dodge on the first stagecoach.

Let me say that first off I have never been in the military service. I find that some comments out of touch on what some of our veterans have gone through during their service to our country.  Lake Lady is annoyed by pickle ball , were you ever in combat where those pops were gun fire aimed at you??????  Some of our veterans freak out with different sounds , like someone shutting a door ,  hammering , nail guns , some trash blowing across the road while they're  driving.  If you haven't been to a war zone even if you are a veteran don't go judging other people for what you think is a trivial matter.   PTSD is real and it affects peoples lives. At least we have the The American with Disabilities Act to support our Veterans. My thoughts on the siren is it never should have been put in a populated area. On the Light House would have made more sense , Do they ever blow the Fog Horn anymore ?


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