By Paul J Sniadecki, Board Director

Over a year ago, a corporate resort plan threatened Lake Charlevoix’s shoreland. The property owners planned to excavate the shoreland at their residential zoned property to construct an artificial boat basin, channel, and a two-story, 60′ x 90′ “boathouse.” The huge building would be a dining and event facility intended for large events for their company employees. It had all the elements of being commercial in design and intended use.

It just so happens that the Hayes Township’s zoning ordinance protects Lake Charlevoix by requiring a 50-foot “shoreland protection strip.” Also, “boathouses” were specifically not allowed since 1979. The shoreline ordinance provisions require that only 20% of vegetation is allowed to be removed from the 50 foot shoreland protection strip, not the land itself. This is repeated throughout the ordinance by requiring that if trees are removed, “root systems shall remain in place for shoreline stabilization” and requiring repair of the shoreland if docks or stored boats damage it when taken out seasonally.

Surprisingly, governmental agencies granted permits to proceed with excavation and construction. In turn, a small group of Lake Charlevoix riparians attempted to require compliance with the zoning ordinance and other related requirements. Undaunted by the governmental powers against them, the group led by riparian LuAnne Kozma, proceeded with several different strategic actions. Subsequently, complicated proceedings occurred in Hayes Township over the last year, which can best be understand by studying the following website: ProtectLakeCharlevoixShoreland.org.

Perhaps the most significant result of their actions was a recent Hayes Township Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing and decision in favor of the riparians. In a 4-1 decision, the ZBA interpreted and clarified the zoning ordinance prohibits the excavation of the shoreland protection strip for boat basins and channels.

This matter is an example of the local actions needed to protect inland lakes and streams. For more on how to protect your watershed, consult the many articles written by Attorney Cliff Bloom in The Michigan Riparian magazine in his “Attorney Writes” column.  MLSA also periodically provides planning and zoning presentations at our annual conference.

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