Battle Royale Of Words Continue Between Peterson & Douglas Officials Over Dredge Spoils Site
The City of Douglas’ relationship with prominent local marine owner RJ Peterson remains a sour one as both parties continue to accuse each other of not speaking the truth relative to Peterson’s Tower Marine dredge spoil facility and the lawsuit associated with it, which has cost the city more than $83,000.
The latest clash manifested itself at Monday’s Douglas City Council meeting when Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley publicly responded to a recent letter to the editor penned by Peterson.
Wiley read a part of Peterson’s letter at the meeting: “The Douglas lawsuit against Tower Marine over dredging is an excellent example of what happens when a council member votes on something without first communicating with the ‘affected party.’”
Wiley responded by noting, “This is fiction.”
Repudiating Peterson’s claim that city officials have refused to communicate with him, Wiley referred to the numerous communications and documents the city has sent Peterson about the lawsuit.
“We have a file cabinet - a whole drawer - specifically dedicated to Mr. Peterson’s dredge spoil issue.
“With November, 15, 2013 as the starting point, the city has spent $14,211 on engineering and $83,053 on legal (bills), all of which could have been avoided if Mr. Peterson had only provided the site plan and grading plan that he promised the Planning Commission he would do in April of 2012,” said Douglas City Manager William LeFevere.
Peterson told The Local Observer he has spent about $125,000 fighting the city on the case.
The city filed its lawsuit against the marina owner in 2013 following years of his repeatedly ignoring demands by the city that Tower Marine submit a site plan review (a grading, topographical plan) for expansion of the spoils area, said the city officials.
The facility contains dredge spoils removed from the Kalamazoo River - to improve navigation on the waterway - that experts say has low-level contamination, (i.e., PCBs and arsenic).
The presence of a 77,000- cubic-yard dredge-spoils pile that was un-maintained, unapproved and contaminated in the middle of a residential district presents an environmental threat and zoning violation for city officials and a nuisance to residents, notes court documents filed by Douglas.
The marina was conducting periodic maintenance dredging and also dredged the Kalamazoo Harbor to make way for the the SS Keewatin steamship, which was hauled out of the marina waters onto Lake Michigan on its way to its new home and owner in Canada.
“It (the city claims) is not true,” Peterson told The Local Observer, saying city officials need to understand the issue thoroughly.
“We can’t communicate through lawsuits and legal documents. This issue demands workshops and for governing officials to come down to the marina and see everything that this involves.
“You can’t just sue someone because the city manager tells you it’s a good idea,” said Peterson.
Challenging the city’s reasoning and the grounds cited giving rise to the city’s lawsuit against him, Peterson added:
“Our dredge was not connected to any waterfront construction other than navigational dredging. It was never intended - nor it is intended - for construction, which is what is in the ordinance.”
The parties reached a legal settlement last year and the city and Tower Marine are still in the process of jointly applying for a wetlands permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to implement the settlement plan, according to city and state records.