TRAVERSE CITY — Larry Bordine and his employees could be forced to power down their electric skateboards if a recently completed draft ordinance gains traction.
Bordine owns the Beachnut Surf Shop in Frankfort, a downtown outlet that relies on electric skateboards to transport paddleboards and surfboards through the city by handheld trailer to reach customers on the Lake Michigan shoreline. A ban on electric skateboards could force Bordine to alter his business model or close altogether.
Frankfort Public Safety Committee members, on June 30, instructed city attorney Ross Hammersley to write an ordinance prohibiting electric skateboard use within city limits, according to meeting minutes. Hammersley completed a draft of the ordinance and submitted it to committee members Tuesday.
“We’re kind of fighting this and pushing back, because we do have a vested interest,” Bordine said. “It’s good for our business … it’s close to critical for our business.”
Hammersley could not immediately provide a copy of the draft ordinance. He said it defines electric skateboards, takes information from the state vehicle code and bans use within city limits.
City Superintendent Joshua Mills and Public Safety Committee Chairperson Katie Condon did not immediately return calls requesting comment. City Police Chief Robert Lozowski directed questions to Hammersley.
Hammersley believes committee members pushed for the ordinance after public concerns were raised involving the electric skateboards. An incident involving a Beachnut employee who attempted to go pass a young girl and her mom but struck the girl also likely lead to the push for the proposed ban, he said.
The police report from the July 7, 2016 incident indicates the child “was only afraid and not injured.”
“It was a non-incident,” Bordine said. “A lot of this is being blown way out of proportion. Incidents like this are going to happen, but we try to minimize it.”
Charges and warrants were dropped after Bordine agreed to an unwritten plea to stop using the boards at his shop, though he contends he agreed only to ban employees younger than 16 from using the boards. Benzie County Prosecutor Sara Swanson previously said the unwritten deal was only specific to last year’s incident. She and Hammersley argue electric skateboard use on public roads is illegal.
Lozowski suggested the ban in March, according to meeting minutes, but no further actions have been taken.
Public safety committee members would review the draft ordinance first, make any needed changes and move it later to the city council, with a special meeting at some point, Hammersley said. He expects the approval process to be lengthy.
Bordine hopes to work with city officials on the ordinance and start a dialogue to explain what the boards are capable of and how they can be used safely. He said city officials have declined to engage in talks so far.
If city officials will not work with them, he likely will “rally the troops” and oppose the ordinance that could force him to shutter his business.
“That begs the question, if the city is willing to cripple business, do we even want to stay in business?” he said, adding he has only a rough plan for fighting the ordinance. “First; let’s see the ordinance. Second; if it doesn’t look good, then let’s try to stop it. Then, I don’t know.”