Thursday, June 26, 2008

Harsens Island Marina project has no public support


Harsens Island residents oppose development


About 145 people attended a public hearing on Tuesday at Algonac High School to talk about a marina permit for a proposed 348-unit cluster housing development on the former Boys Club property on Harsens Island.
The developers, Grande Pointe Development and Lucky 7 Development LLC, applied May 1 for a marina operating permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

About 25 people spoke at the hearing, said Alice Szulborski, who lives near the proposed development and attended the meeting. An official with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality could not be reached for comment.

"Not one person spoke up in favor of it," she said. "If there was someone in favor of it sitting there, I don't know. No one spoke up."

Many island residents concerned about the effect on the island oppose the development.

Timothy Stoepker, a lawyer with Dickinson Wright PLLC in Grand Rapids, gave a presentation for the developer during the hearing.

"Normally people who oppose are the ones who show up," he said. "People who are in support of change do not show up. Typically in land use matters, no one supports change. It's rare."

On Feb. 27, the Clay Township Planning Commission rejected a special land-use request that would have allowed construction of the project. Grande Pointe and Lucky 7, managed and owned by former Clay Township resident Michael Malik, filed an appeal of the decision March 19 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Gary Fletcher, a Port Huron lawyer representing the developers, did not attend Tuesday's meeting -- which did not address the planning commission decision. He said the developers and the township will submit briefs for the appeal in the next 60 days.

Developers need a permit from the DEQ to construct and operate a marina with 344 slips for the use of property owners and an additional 18 slips for day use. They propose to dredge out a marina basin on the former Boys Club property that would connect with the North Channel of the St. Clair River.

Developers also propose moving the existing riverfront road.

Szulborski, who said she has been visiting Harsens Island for about 60 years and has lived there year-round the past 15 years, said the project doesn't fit DEQ criteria for a marina operating permit.

She said it unreasonably affects the public trust "because they plan on taking out the road and the waterfront property on the other side of the road, which they don't own.

"The egress and ingress also is going to be on public property," she said

She said a new marina in the area also will increase boat congestion on the North Channel and the development does not fit in with surrounding residences.

"I'm not against developing the area," she said. "I'm not against homes being put there. I am against a 60-acre lagoon being dug there. I am against my road being taken out."

But Stoepker said the project should receive a permit.

"From our position this project meets all the requirements under the applicable statute for approval and under the applicable rules," he said.

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