Opinion: The Docks, a new community for Muskegon

A rendering of The Docks development in Muskegon. Image via the city of Muskegon

Editor’s note: This opinion piece was sent in response to the op-ed, “Opinion: Cash is king…of the dunes,” published on May 13. It was updated on May 17 to include the name of the author and contact information.

Dear Ben Evans,

We have read with interest your May 13, 2019 opinion piece in the Muskegon Times. We are also glad that you’re not a reporter, any longer, because your accuracy and attention to detail are lacking. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and to express those opinions freely whether right or wrong or in conflict with another person’s opinion.

But, Ben, your opinion isn’t based on fact and that’s where the truth must prevail, and we need to clear things up. Misinformation causes confusion, like when MLive reported that we were required to conduct a more robust, seven-month vehicle and boat traffic study. Though MLive has corrected their article, that is a perception that will not go away, and we are under no such requirement.

Every morning you walk your “hound” on our property without interference or rules to follow. It’s not a park, Ben. It’s private property owned by Sand Products Corporation. We’ve owned the property since 1930, and we’re glad that you and generations of other Muskegon residents have been able to enjoy it and have strong feelings about the land. You’ll be able to walk your hound on the sidewalks and boardwalks of The Docks, too.

As a former reporter, we’re sure that you know something about private property rights. The 80 acres of land that was once a dune, if approved by the City of Muskegon Planning Commission, will have residential housing for people in and outside of Muskegon. You talk about the need for “public good,” and The Docks will bring new residents to our community, which with it brings significant tax revenue to the City, which benefits all of Muskegon. If that’s not public good, we’re not sure what is.

Also, it is important to note that of the 80 acres we own, about six acres are critical dune area (CDA), and of that, about 1/3 of an acre is being impacted. We do not intend to build any homes within the CDA. As for the “natural wetlands” of the land, they’re actually residual from our former sand mining operation and not really natural at all—they rise and fall with the water table. A certified environmental consultant conducted a wetlands study last summer, and every acre of regulated wetland we impact will be replaced by 1.5 acres of a coastal wetland area. The Department of Environment Great Lakes & Energy (formerly DEQ) and the Army Corps of Engineers will review the study before any permits are issued. 

Before investing in plans for The Docks, we did our research on the Muskegon housing market, and even if you don’t think the houses are needed, our data tells a different story about the capacity for new housing in Muskegon. As Muskegon residents with large homes choose to move to smaller places, The Docks will be an option, and we expect people from the Muskegon area and beyond to purchase homes. We have been contacted by many Muskegon area residents interested in moving to The Docks.

To say that the City of Muskegon is trying to “steamroll” its citizens is simply wrong. We’ve been working on this project with the City for two years, and issues about our project have been on City meeting agendas since early 2018. That’s a very slow steamroll, whether we have a “Damn the Torpedoes” attitude, or not. We respect the processes that the City utilizes and we intend to follow to the letter of the law, all of the City codes. Your “confidence” that we will do otherwise is an insult to the integrity of our company and to the City Commissioners, staff and Planning Commission members who have carefully reviewed our plans.

Contrary to your assertion that we’ve done no “legitimate” studies about traffic and hydrology we have done both as part of our Planned Unit Development. Our hydrology study is based on data collected on site beginning in March 2018. The engineering firm Lakeshore Environmental tells us that in consideration of the proposed method of construction that they have identified no data that will result in any adverse effects to short or long term groundwater elevations, groundwater quantity or quality, building foundations, surface water quality, wetland or aquatic resources.

Ben, we wish we could stop basement flooding in Bluffton and lower the lake level along Edgewater; that’s something beyond our control. We are confident, though, that through quality engineering, The Docks will not make the issue worse.

We know that more houses and more cars will add to the traffic in the Beach Street/Waterworks intersection and that is something the City is keenly aware of and is working to alleviate.

We are quite sure that Bluffton/Beachwood residents will not “sit in silence” as our project moves forward—the citizens that live near our property have never been quiet, and that’s part of the appeal of this small community. People in Bluffton/Beachwood have a strong sense of place and belonging, and that’s inviting for newcomers, too.

Thanks, Ben, for allowing us to address issues about our development.

This opinion piece is by Scott Musselman, the Chief Financial Officer of the Sand Products Corporation/The Docks Development Team. They can be reached on their website or Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author(s) 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.

6 thoughts on “Opinion: The Docks, a new community for Muskegon

  • May 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm
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    Had someone signed their name to this letter, I could have searched for their address, purchased 83 acres of land behind their home, destroyed all of the wildlife therein, and run heavy machinery to disrupt the peace of their existence and established culture for an unannounced period of time. This, towards the end of filling the property up with upscale tract homes. These homes would increase the traffic, stress, and commotion in the day-to-day life of the existing residents henceforth. In order to accomplish this, I would make a nice colored pencil sketch of what the development might look like, pay lip-service to increasing the tax revenue of the city in which the development would be erected (as a “just plain sensible” justification for growing my own wealth) and send existing property owners in the region to be effected by my development a letter (on law firm letterhead) saying they should relinquish any claim that might prove obstructive to my project. I would make it a point to do as little research as possible on the wide-ranging impacts of my development; and would listen to anyone who opposed it with condescension, if at all. If someone attempted to make me accountable for what was, really, my sheer greed, I would write a patronizing and public response to that individual. I would correct every error in said individual’s critique with information on my project, the majority of which was previously undisclosed to the public despite their repeated requests for it. Throughout the course of all this I would have convinced myself that I’m in the right. That this is true Capitalism, and what this country was built upon. I would absolve myself of all responsibility and any notion that suggested: “This development’s future remains a decision wholly in my hands. I am choosing to destroy a dune habitat in an era in which nature is threatened and shrinking with unprecedented speed. I am choosing to impinge upon a neighborhood culture that values community and beauty, while, in the process, disturbing already tenuous water levels.”

    Yes, that’s what I’d do. If only someone had signed their name.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 9:13 pm
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    In residential development, the developer makes upfront money, but it’s a sump pump for the city after that. Forever. The costs for public services to any new residential development will always exceed any new revenues, with a ratio of 1.16, meaning for every dollar in taxes received, the city spends $1.16 in services back.

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  • May 15, 2019 at 9:18 pm
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    When you say he Docks will bring new residents to our community, which with it brings significant tax revenue to the City, which benefits all of Muskegon and If that’s not public good, we’re not sure what is……..Only retail and commercial development makes real money for a city, with an average of 70 cents returned in revenues for every dollar spent by the city back in services.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 10:51 pm
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    Ben,

    As someone with zero interest in this development. You seem somewhat clueless. You sited several facts which the Sand Products Corp. Reply easily disputed as false. You are begging for an address, I don’t recall seeing your address posted in opinion piece? You state with an address you could purchase 83 acres of land near their home to disrupt their lives. Yet in your opinion you state you don’t have the means to hire legal counsel which begs the question, how could you purchase this land?
    I imagine your neighborhood is wonderful, but I wonder, when the heavy machinery came in to build your homes and your neighborhood, was any affected? Was any wildlife affected? If so, seems a bit hypocritical no? You are ok with your neighborhood being built effecting others but now that another property owner wants to do it you are not ok with it?

    Food for thought.

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  • May 16, 2019 at 3:07 am
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    Evans signed his opinion. Why not sign yours?

    That’s some hack journalism. Shame on you and your editors.

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  • May 24, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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    Thank You Scott, I think that this is a well written response to a misinformed NIMBY resident. The big problem with people like Ben is that, they think that projects like this just popped up yesterday, and they fail to realize that you have been paying taxes on this property for the last 80+ years, with the intent that someday it would be time to do just what you are doing, developing the property.
    I applaud your willingness to include public access in your development plans, even though it is not a legal requirement, and even though you will be welcoming some of the same people that have been the most vocal.

    Reply

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