Harbor Authority Members Disagree Over Whether Or Not To Take Positions On DEQ Issues
Tensions rose and a marked schism revealed itself at the latest Kalamazoo Harbor Authority Board meeting over a local business’ application before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) involving a special request to allow rafting and mooring of boats almost halfway into the river.
“It was very disheartening to be me because it seemed to be a discussion about who you are rather than a question of what to do,” said Lisa Greenwood, who serves as Douglas City Council member and secretary of the Harbor Authority, at Monday’s council meeting about the recent debate.
As conceded by some city officials and by others who attended the meeting, the Ship ’N Shore Motel and Boatel transient dockage application before the DEQ has generated acrimony.
Some Harbor Authority board members don’t want to get involved with what they see as an issue entirely under the jurisdiction of the DEQ, while others see it as the authority’s duty to do so.
At the recent meeting, Kalamazoo Harbor Authority Board Chair Robert Sapita and Vice Chair Patrick Burroughs presented their colleagues with a draft letter to the DEQ that spoke to the Ship ‘N Shore application.
However, not everyone thought it was a good idea for the authority to send that letter to the DEQ. The board later moved not to vote on the letter and tabled the issue.
“We want to make sure businesses are viable, but not at the cost of infringing on others’ water safety and so on,” Greenwood said about her own viewpoint referring to Ship ’N Shore’s DEQ request.
She said she supports the Sapita-Burroughs letter, in part because “It’s very fundamental of the harbor authority’s role.”
Greenwood’s viewpoint contrasted sharply with that of her colleague Kalamazoo Harbor Authority Treasurer Mark Bekken.
She noted that Bekken was of the opinion “that we shouldn’t be getting into this business (of the authority sending letters to the DEQ).” Sapita, Borroughs and Bekken were not available Tuesday to comment about the issue or respond to requests for a copy of the draft letter.
The debate among Harbor Authority Board members centered around these two key questions:
What is the exact role of the local Harbor Authority?
And should the Harbor Authority, if at all, get involved in discussions involving state or federal agencies regarding applicants seeking special request permits from those agencies (i.e. the DEQ and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?)
The Harbor Authority is asking the entire Saugatuck City Council to weigh in on the topic. “It is something that needs to be ironed out,” said Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier, the city’s liaison to the board. He said the issue will soon be addressed by Saugatuck City Council.
As for the DEQ application itself, representatives of the agency’s Water Resources Division located in Kalamazoo say that although they became aware that rafting and mooring involving multiple boats fastened together has been an established practice off the Ship ’N Shore seawall for many years, the business is considered a marina and as such, requires a special permit approval if it’s going to continue that tradition.
Meanwhile, Ship ’N Shore owner Randy King asserts he needs transient dockage if he is to be a viable business and in his application he is requesting the ability to extend 90 to 95 feet into the waterway, among other special requests.