Public Should Be Given Information About Debate, Decision On Lakeshore Drive Washout
“The public is owed a determination (about the 400-foot washout of Lakeshore Drive, south of of Wiley Rd). What is going to happen there?” said Saugatuck Township Manager Aaron Sheridan during recent discussions among officials about the ongoing pursuit for public input on the subject.
Part of that public relations also entails informing those residents who have “encroached” on what the Allegan County Road Commission says is a public, 66-foot right-of-way.
Lakeshore Drive runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline and is considered a primary road under the jurisdiction and responsibility of Allegan County. However, the portion of the road that is collapsed affects about five township waterfront property lots.
The road was never rebuilt after it gave way back in the 1980s and some property owners have used portions of the waterfront property where the public road used to be. Some have landscaped that land it as part of their own property and even built structures there (i.e., gazebos).
Such is the case for the Morr A. Allen Trust property at 2825 Lakeshore Drive. Allegan County Road Commission Attorney Stephen Denenfeld, of Lewis Reed & Allen, P.C., sent the property owner a January 23, 2017 letter, stating, in part, “The Road Commission, although not legally obligated to do so, is refraining from requiring the encroaching improvements be removed from their present location at this time.
“However, the Road Commission hereby gives you notice that, in the lawful exercise of its rights as a public entity, it may determine that the encroaching improvements shall be removed from the public right-of-way, for the reason that the encroaching improvements constitute a serious danger or material risk to the health and safety of person(s) using Lakeshore Drive, Allegan County, Michigan, or for any other non-arbitrary reason, determined in good faith, such as, but not limited to, a road improvement project.”
Now, whether that such a road improvement project ever comes to fruition or not remains a big question.
As acknowledged by township and county officials, one of the biggest obstacles is a huge price tag. Allegan County Road Commission Managing Director Larry Brown estimates between $2 million and $3 million, with possible use of limestone as a reinforcement.
“This cannot be done with a special funding; our current budget just wouldn’t allow it,” Brown told The Local Observer last Friday.
Township officials caution about how the breach on the road represents a big impediment for emergency vehicles to be able to respond in a timely fashion to residents—Saugatuck Township and Ganges Township residents alike—that live to the south of the washout.
Instead of getting to residents on the south on what would be a direct route, emergency vehicles would have to make a big deviation and take I-196.
However, township officials are also aware of the differing opinions among property owners of whether or not the road ought to be reconstructed.
“Some people are really for it (reconstruction), some people are very against it,” Saugatuck Township Supervisor Jonathan Phillips recently shared with his colleagues about what he had learned from his constituents during his campaign run in the November 2016 election.