PETITION AGAINST HIAWATHA TOWNSHIP USE OF DODGE LAKE LOTS FOR PUBLIC PARK/ACCESS/BEACH
PETITION AGAINST THE USE OF THE DODGE LAKE LOTS OWNED BY THE HIAWATHA TOWNSHIP FOR A PUBLIC PARK/ACCESS/BEACH
WHEREAS, it has come to our attention that the governing body of our township is actively considering and have started work on the conversion of a parcel of land fronting on Dodge Lake, known as lots eleven (11) and twelve (12) of Supervisor’s Plat of LaPorte’s Resort on Dodge Lake from vacant unimproved land to a beachfront park and/or lake access for use by the general public, and
WHEREAS, we concerned citizens, taxpayers and/or voters of Hiawatha Township have (again) not been appraised of such plan or project, and over the last 38 years have voiced our concerns numerous times and been assured numerous times that this plan would not take place as demonstrated by the following history:
- the first objection to developing this land was made by property owners 38 years ago, in 1982,
- in June 1990 a petition was brought to the Township Board against developing this land,
- in August 1999 the property owners again objected to this proposal and subsequently were assured by the Township Board that they would never use this land,
- in July 2001 another petition signed by 69 property owners was presented to the Township Board. As a result, along with a large attendance of property owners at the July 19th, 2001 Township Board meeting, the Township Board agreed not to take action on this until they had considered the issues and first advising us of the meeting at which it will be decided,
- on May 30, 2002 a letter from the Dodge & Island Lake Property Owners Association to the Township Board summarized what action the Township Board would have to do to carry out the proposal. The proposal was again dropped,
- on July 16th, 2020 with no mention of the subject in the posted agenda and limited attendance due to the coronavirus, a motion was made and unanimously carried as a result of a request in public comments to turn said property into a public use area, and
WHEREAS: we have several concerns, which we insist must be addressed at a lawfully convened public meeting before any further action is taken to alter said property from its present condition for access, park, or beach purposes, to wit:
- Physical and administrative plans need to be prepared; said plans to show what improvements are being proposed and what resources are available for funding, constructing, administering, and maintaining subject property, based on a demographic study of projected public usage;
- The impact of the projected additional traffic on the already-in-need-of-repair Island Lake Road which road being, of course, the responsibility of the Schoolcraft County Road Commission. We believe the following issues need to be addressed with regard to said road:
- Will responsibility for resurfacing the pavement be assumed by the Township, or will the County Road Commission undertake this in a timely fashion?
- Will the township be able to provide sufficient improved parking spaces within subject “park” boundaries to meet the projected demand now and in the foreseeable future (recognizing that the property is only about 100 ft. wide and generally covered by mature trees). If not, we do NOT believe that parking can nor should be permitted upon the narrow, 30 ft. wide Island Lake Road. How will this be controlled and enforced: In light of the above, is some form of permit or permission required by the Road Commission?
- Island Lake Road dead ends without a turnaround. In order for vehicles reaching the west end of the road to reverse direction to exit to M-94 they must enter onto private property. How does the township propose to compensate the adjoining property owners in consideration for permitting such trespasses?
- Undoubtedly, speeding cars will become a problem when the public starts to use Island Lake Road. The road is a popular place for people to walk. There are no sidewalks and the shoulders are narrow and rough. Of particular concern are the sharp curve to the left and an extremely sharp “S” curve as one approaches subject property. How does the Township propose to deal with these problems?
- Nighttime use of the property will undoubtedly be a problem just as it is at the state public access across the lake where loud parties and bonfires are not uncommon. The difference here is the state owns several acres and neighbors are distant even though sight and sound carry easily across the water. What uses will be permitted? I.e. boat launching, storage, fishing, swimming, etc.? How does the township propose to control these activities and hours of use? Have the sheriff and state police been consulted about enforcement? If so, what was their response?
- Before opening said property to the public, we believe the neighbors whose residences closely adjoin on either side need the protection of sturdy fences, provided and maintained by the Township, extending from the road to the water line. Signs are needed to prevent public access onto these adjoining properties.
- Also, before said property is available to the public, the township needs to prepare and adopt an ordinance that defines the intended use of the property, the hours of operation, and prohibited activities (fires, cooking, refuse disposal, excessive noise, camping, boat launching, trespassing onto private property, drug/alcohol use, etc.) with penalties prescribed for same. As with above items, there needs to be a clear understanding as to what township official will receive and act upon complaints of violations of ordinances and other laws.
- The question of legal liability of the township and its officers for actions relating to the public’s use of subject property and its access needs to be addressed. Is the township adequately insured against losses occurring therefrom?
- Finally, the total financial cost to township taxpayers in consideration of the above, along with the necessity or propriety of creating this public area must be weighed and compared against the financial benefits to the township taxpayers of keeping the township property on Dodge Lake in its present natural state as a township asset for future sale, especially since a public access already exists on Dodge Lake at no direct cost to township taxpayers.