We have supported and reported on the battle of White River township to preserve a two-hundred-foot wide lot on Lake Michigan. A developer has been trying to initiate development of a lot in a critical dune area adjacent to the townshipâ€™s Barrier Dune Sanctuary. The lot can only be accessed by a quarter-mile easement through the protected land.
A long and expensive court battle would be necessary to determine the conditions on the easement: whether a easement even exists; whether a paved road or only a footpath is allowed; where is it; what limits on use exist.
In May 2013 the DEQ rejected the developerâ€™s permit application and ruled that the access was a â€œroadâ€, not a â€œdrivewayâ€. Therefore, it is not eligible for the exemptions provided in the â€œsand dune lawâ€ for driveways. The developers could have appealed the ruling but instead chose in September 2013 to sue the township.
Eventually the parties entered into negotiations and in December 2014 reached an agreement that the developer would sell the land to the township providing the township paid $900,000 within 18 months. When the sale is completed the land will be incorporated into the Sanctuary. The settlement agreement effectively suspended the lawsuit.
The township has launched a campaign to raise funds to complete the purchase. The township has applied for a grant from the stateâ€™s Natural Resources Trust Fund and is seeking further funding from private and public sources.
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan is assisting in the effort. For a description of the land and the sanctuary visit their website. Donâ€™t miss the video. And support their endeavor.