Douglas Blames Macatawa Bank For Poor Condition Of Swing Bridge Boardwalk
Locals and visitors who want to enjoy the public boardwalk at the partially completed Swing Bridge condominium development may have to deal with moss, overgrown grass, phragmites and litter.
The issue was discussed Monday night when Douglas City Council members reported their concerns, and city staff said the city will do everything it can to maintain the property notwithstanding what they say is an irresponsible and non-responsive new property owner, Macatawa Bank.
The boardwalk is a public benefit the city gained through much effort, a condition placed in a Planned Unit Development agreement the city approved with developer and former Swing Bridge owner Tom Scott.
The city went through a drawn-out legal dispute with Scott, culminating in a legal settlement in 2009.
The development project, a 16-condo unit in about five acres, was never fully completed.
In 2014, the city started the process of going through a foreclosure of the property by judicial sale and it reverted back to Macatawa Bank, which, as current owner of the development, is responsible for the maintenance of the boardwalk as well as the landscape around buildings.
“Typically, when we ask the bank for it (maintenance), they ignore us,” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere.
“It’s just a shame we are not going to let that boardwalk be one of our better features,” said Douglas City Council Member Kathryn Mooradian.
Macatawa Bank did not return calls from The Local Observer for comment on the matter.
In years past, the city has taken the responsibility of mowing the overgrown grass on the property—which all properties owners are obligated to do per city ordinance— then billed the bank for it.
However, the city has not extended its limited resources to taking care of the boardwalk and other features of the property.
Some sections of the boardwalk in years past have been underwater when the water-level is high. While the boardwalk remains a public access, Macatawa Bank is not legally responsible for elevating it because that was never part of any legal agreement, said LeFevere.
“We are living with the details that weren’t taken care of in the past,” he conceded.
The boardwalk is 700-feet long, 6-feet wide, and it runs along the Kalamazoo River waterfront, spanning from Veterans Walk Park to the Union Street boat launch.
Additionally, the city bonded the former owner for infrastructure construction related to the project, (i.e., Washington Street) which was completed.
In 2011, the city flirted with the idea of purchasing Swing Bridge and converting it to a public recreational park following a year of the developer not doing anything with the property.
However, the concept was not too popular with the local public and the park idea was dropped.