Opinion: Cash is king…of the dunes

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As someone who every morning walks his hound in the Bluffton dune lands (the 83 acres situated between Harbour Towne and Edgewater Street), it will come as no surprise that I am opposed to “The Docks” residential development project being orchestrated by Sand Products Corp. and their real estate arm MiCoast Properties. Presented with the facts—assuming you did not stand to make a significant financial gain—I’m confident you, too, would be opposed to “The Docks” project, as it necessities the destruction of 83 acres of (finite) dune land habitat in order to build more than 200 “upscale” homes. That these homes are not needed to (nor likely will) house current Muskegon residents seems not to matter. That these homes will yield substantial traffic increases (both boats and cars) in an already summer-crowded area seems not to matter. That developers are intending to dredge yet another channel entrance into Muskegon Lake, and thus disturb an already volatile and overtaxed water table (Bluffton/Beachwood residents basements flood routinely; Edgewater Street floods almost impassably in even modest rains) seems not to matter.

Though no legitimate water level or traffic studies have been conducted pertaining to “The Docks” project, and though the lack of consideration for the logistical, cultural and ecological impacts of the project would alarm even a disinterested party, the Muskegon City Planning Commission (and subsequently the Muskegon City Commission) are nonetheless expected to give final approval for “The Docks” to go forward before the month is out.

Admittedly, I have “skin in the game” with regard to “The Docks” project, but the demonstrated ability of the financial interest (of a very few) to overwhelm and outweigh concerns of safety, culture, environment, and, really, the overall public good should concern every citizen. Since the inception of “The Docks” proposal/project, myself and a group of Bluffton/Beachwood residents have attended countless City and City Planning Commission meetings and the “Damn the Torpedoes” attitude exhibited by “The Docks” developers and our own Muskegon commission members is startling. As a former reporter, I have studied the legal and governmental proceedings of initiatives similar to “The Docks” and the “steamroll job” taking place to actualize this project is the most brazen and reckless I can recall.

No traffic study. No wetland study. No water table study. It makes one feel powerless. More than that though, it gives one the sense that appeals to reason are doomed always to fail when they must stand toe-to-toe with money. Thus, lacking the financial means to hire an attorney to “bird-dog” the legality of this development—I’m confident, given the “critical dune” status of those 83 acres and the natural wetlands that therein occur, code upon code will be violated by this project—I, along with other Bluffton/Beechwood residents, will sit in silence as the Muskegon City Commission (likely) votes to approve what amounts to a destructive, disruptive and poorly-considered 200-plus “upscale” home residential development. Power to the people?

Ben Evans is a poet and writer living in Muskegon. The editor of “Fogged Clarity,” his work has appeared or is forthcoming in “Colorado Review”, “The Huffington Post”, “Fourteen Hills”, “Sugar House Review” and many other places. He can be reached at Editor (at) foggedclarity (dot) com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by the Muskegon Times. Readers who would like to submit an op-ed or letter to the editor may do so by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com.

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