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.
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.