Brief Background of the Bays
The Chesapeake Bay Car Wash at 605 S James Street has been keeping Ludington's cars cleaned for decades, but in 2008 it became the property of Joe (and Janet) Oquist according to assessing records. In 2015, he would buy the neighboring residence on Melendy Street and regularly maintain the three bays of the self-service facility.
Also in 2015, Ted Gedra would purchase a sizable chunk of property directly north across Melendy street from the Oquist residence and the car wash. He planned to demolish the older buildings on site and put in a microbrewery as noted in the minutes of the 10-6-2015 Planning Commission meeting's public hearing on the special use in the maritime commercial zoned property:
Joe Oquist was present at this meeting and asked only a simple question about where the brewery's one silo would be and was told that it would be on the northeast portion of their building, well away from Oquist's property.
The Ludington Bay Brewery (LBB) would be approved, the older buildings torn down (with questionable asbestos-mitigation procedures, see Nancy Mustaikis' comments back in 2015), and the microbrewery built. It is unknown when the tensions between Ludington Bay and Chesapeake Bay (both quite removed from any actual bays) first arose, but they came to a head on the night of June 4, 2021.
The Boisterous Battle of the Bays
On that Friday night, LBB had some of that outdoor entertainment they warned of and their neighbor to south complained about it, Officer Michael Gilmurray was called upon to check on the problem, he started by going to LBB and talking with their manager
The manager effectively becomes a counter-complainant by saying their loud music was being interfered with by the person who complained playing his music loud. Gilmurray committed his first error of the night by not using his bodycam to record his chat with the manager, who was responsible for the loud music that was part of the complaint. The report makes clear that he never looked into whether the LBB music would have been nuisance-enough to be complained about. We find out why after he talks to Joseph.
In the video you see a campfire in Joe's backyard vigorously burning in a circular burn pit. LBB's manager claims that this was used to smoke them out, yet that's a ridiculous claim, since the wind was blowing from the southwest (verifiable not only by the weather history of that night, but by the video) and any smoke would have went well east of the dining area of LBB, as seen on this battleground map where the established firepit (circled in red) shows where the smoke would go:
One would think an officer would take this into consideration when talking with the person who called in the noise complaint, but Officer Gilmurray instead keys in on a speaker on a table close to and south of the fire. This placement would be consistent with someone who wanted to sit quietly near a fire in the backyard but can't due to their neighbor disturbing their peace. If Joe had wanted to disrupt LBB's outside entertainment, wouldn't he have set this up in his front yard? But the following exchange happened:
Joe: "OK, I'll turn it down, I was just blocking out their music."
Gilmurray: "Alright, well you can't be doing that, alright?
Joe: "I couldn't even hear myself talk. I was here first, you know. If they want to rock and roll this way, I'll rock right back. They can't come here and put a band here"
G: "Yes they can."
Joe: "No, they can't."
G: "Yes they can."
Joe: "I was here first."
G: "It doesn't matter. The city lets them put it there. You can't blast music, that's a 'disorderly'... you gotta let it happen... the city allows them to do it."
The officer threatens to write Joe a ticket every time he comes there for a noise complaint while Joe tells him that his windows are shaking due to the amplified music played across the street from him. The officer is under the mistaken belief that the city specifically allows LBB to have outdoor music that disturbs the peace while Joe cannot, even when his sole purpose is to block out the noise across the street that is disturbing his peace.
The officer retreats to his patrol car by the end of the video while saying this visit was his one warning. This would be the only body cam footage from this incident, but it definitely shouldn't have been as there was much more to occur, the police report takes up what happens next (after the red mark):
Gilmurray does write the citation on the same visit allegedly when Joe turns his music up loud inside of his house. The disorderly conduct/person statute in Michigan law is clear that such conduct is not disorderly unless it happens in a public place and the party is intoxicated. The local ordinance cited in the report later on makes clear such disturbance needs to be in a public place, not private residential property:
The fiery end of the bogus citation wasn't the end of the evening's events, as the report continues:
Neither Haveman or Gilmurray had their bodycams on during this time, this is very strange after a citizen has allegedly threatened the police (one should consider the source who claimed they were being smoked out). The absence indicates that the videos would have highly damaged their case they would try to engineer.
Once again, Joe was never in a public place, not declared to be intoxicated, and was arrested by the two officers for disorderly conduct when Gilmurray put in his report that he cleared the scene earlier without incident once Joe stopped yelling, apparently arresting him for the misdemeanor for allegedly yelling across the street during the interim. This was an illegal arrest, apparently done because Joe wasn't compliant enough to Gilmurray's unlawful orders and lack of knowledge of the law:
In the report, there is no indication that any felony occurred, Joe was arrested without a struggle, but apparently the prosecutor looked over this report and thought a felony resisting charge needed to be added to the bogus charge. I've looked at the court records and still haven't figured out the resisting charge, this being the only thing I found:
If this amounts to resisting/obstructing officers, alleged tensing up muscles during an unlawful arrest, then Gilmurray and Haveman might as well charge everyone they cuff with a felony, and they do.
The June 4, 2021 incident led to Joe being charged with the disturbing the peace ordinance in district court and with a felony resisting/obstruction charge. On June 23, he pleaded not guilty during his arraignment for the latter, after having paid his $2500 bond on June 10th.
On February 22, 2022, he wound up with a plea bargain, pleading guilty to the felony charge of resisting; the disturbing the peace charge would be thrown out on April 1, 2022 as a result of this deal. On April 12, he was sentenced to 1 day in jail minimum, 1 day in jail maximum, and credit for 1 day already served. He was to pay about $558 in court costs.
One hopes that Joe Oquist considers that he has an excellent case against the arrest that occurred that night, and strongly consider suing the LPD for the violation of his First and Fourteen Amendment rights leading up to the arrest and similar relief for the additional felony charge that will be a stain on his record that shouldn't be there. It's a disgrace for the LPD when they receive a noise complaint by one business owner about another and they decide that one business can blare their music outside while another gets ticketed and charged for doing the same inside their own shaking residence in order to block out the noise.
Love the title of this article. Did the brewery have a special permit to blare the music to a point of rattling a residence? I am not condoning Oquist's response, and I'm sure he was driven to craziness. Another option would have been to sue city of Ludington for ruining his peaceful enjoyment of his home and peace of mind. Wait. Hasn't that been tried by the siren guy? How did that go? Seems like there is a lot of frustration in the growth of Ludington area. I blame it on the DDA and Community Development for ruining a peaceful little town, overgrowth and lack of concern for residents. Take big city ideas from out of-towners making a name and a job for themselves and get strife.
I try to be creative with my titles while not making them sound too ridiculous, thanks for the affirmation that I did it right this time. The brewery doesn't have any special permit exempting it from abiding by the noise restrictions they enforced on Joseph Oquist on June 4, 2021, at least none that have properly came before either the council or planning commission in an open meeting.
I actually made the connection with the siren guy while hypothecating the best way for Joe to get proper redress and/or revenge for the damage he has suffered from this incident. Beyond the easy 14th Amendment 'equal protection under the law' claim, he could also claim that whenever LBB plays its music loud (like it has tonight, I could hear the music and words easily two blocks away) he has PTSD of when two errant LPD officers came onto his property and falsely imprisoned him.
The City of Ludington should capitulate like it did with Nathaniel Rose who claimed the fire siren reminded him of time he spent back in combat. It should be quicker since Rose wasn't imprisoned or degraded by the other side.
The DDA wants people to move downtown, but when almost every block every Friday and Saturday (at least) during the summer has live amplified music outdoors, on their roofs, or on balconies, you can't find a lot of people willing to put up with the clashing noises and live there for long, and definitely not raise a family there.
Mr. Oquist should have hired an attorney to fight this if only to avoid the criminal record. The City cares little for it's citizens especially if they try to interfere with their new found party plans. Having residential zoning near commercial zoning is always a bad idea but unfortunately when Ludington was young and growing, zoning was a hodgepodge mixture and little thought was given to where businesses and family neighborhoods existed. Now that the brewery crowd is deeply entrenched in Ludington, it won't be long until Marijuana dens will be springing up. I can't imagine anyone who would want to raise a family around the mind altering mess Ludington will soon turn into.
Having read the court records, my understanding from the docket is that he was originally appointed an attorney by the court. Unfortunately, or coincidentally, this was the same public defender that landed a job in the prosecutor's office as a legal assistant this year, from what I hear. I do not know whether this conflict is why she was dismissed from defending Mr. Oquist, it would be a great reason, or whether Joe decided she wasn't doing enough for his case.
Nevertheless, after it appears he hired a Muskegon-area attorney he got a plea deal that was palatable enough for him, as it effectively has his one-day time served as the sentence plus some fees and probation-- perhaps it even won't show up on his record as a felony. Regardless, one hopes he can get some justice by fighting back with the help of some good attorney and supplement his car-clean money cleanly.