Roofed dock controversialPublished 5:23pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) readily admits it erred by not public noticing a permit issued for a roofed pier on the north side of Indian Lake.
After that it gets complicated.
Kameron Jordan, district supervisor of the Water Resources Division, and Larry Poynter, senior environmental quality analyst of the Land and Water Management Division, both in Kalamazoo, found themselves on the hot seat at a special 45-minute special board meeting Tuesday afternoon when complex DEQ rules smacked into Silver Creek’s simple question of its recourse to correct the mistake.
Exasperated Silver Creek officials voted 4-0 for Clerk Walt Lehmann’s request DEQ “modify or revoke” its permit, supported by Trustee Joe Moore, Treasurer Maureen Kuriata and Supervisor Bill Saunders. Trustee Doug Swisher was absent.
“We messed up,” Jordan said of the $500 permit for 54767 Highland Drive, Eau Claire. “It’s kind of a unique situation. Construction in the water needs a permit. We received an application Nov. 3 and the fee Nov. 9. We have two types of projects. Minor project general permits for $50. Others have to be public noticed” to neighbors, the township, the county clerk and the lake association.
At the same time, DEQ revised minor project general permit categories effective Oct. 31. Old rules, however, remained in effect until rescinded by the Legislature Jan. 12.
Jordan said district supervisors discussed “roofs over these kinds of structures because we’re starting to see them on other lakes,” such as St. Clair on the east side of the state. “We discussed if you put a roof over an existing dock, do you need a permit because none of the posts go into the bottom of the lake. We went back and forth,” ultimately deciding Dec. 14 it did because the dock is “extended. Permanent covers need a permit. Under the new rules or old rules, this should have been public noticed. The permit got issued Dec. 29. The horse was out of the barn. I’ve been doing this 26 years and I don’t remember this ever happening. The direction we got from our Lansing staff was ‘there’s no sense of public noticing, it’s partially built.’ There are two ways we can revoke a permit — if the party doesn’t tell us the truth on the application or if they don’t follow the permit,” neither of which applies. DEQ realized its mistake March 26.
“Wouldn’t not giving public notice the way you usually do be cause for revoking the permit until after a hearing?” township attorney John Magyar asked.
“Not according to my management,” Jordan said, “though I admit we deprived the public of their opportunity to comment.”
“If we issue a building permit in error,” Saunders said, “we’ve got to correct it. You made no attempt to correct it. Why didn’t you contact the township?”
“That probably would have been a good idea. Apparently the township has more leeway on whether you can revoke a permit or not,” Jordan said.