Proposed commercial dock for Lake Margrethe draws flurry of opposition
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Dozens of area residents and property owners turned out last week to raise strong opposition to a proposed project to install a dock on the north shore of Lake Margrethe to moor boats through a commercial operation, although plans for the proposal have changed.
The Grayling Charter Township Planning Commission held a public hearing on March 28 to gather input from citizens on a special use permit which would allow the boat dock in the lake.
Brad and Ann Lapworth are seeking to put the dock in the lake, just off M-72 West. A special use permit is needed since it would be a commercial operation in a residentially zoned area.
Initially, the Lapworths sought to have a dock which extended out 200 feet into the lake. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), however, had them reconfigure the proposal. The new plans call for a dock which would extend out 120 feet from the water’s edge and the structure would be 86 feet wide.
The DEQ issued a permit, approving the placement of a dock in the lake. The Michigan Department of Transportation also approved a parking area, which would be used by owners of the boats.
“There is going to be room for 12 boat slips and 12 cars,” Brad Lapworth said in a brief presentation at the meeting.
The Grayling Charter Township Hall was jam-packed with people for the public hearing, with every seat being taken and people standing on the sides and in the back of the room.
Mark Sloan raised the issue that having no turning lanes or bypass lanes would create a hazard for vehicle crashes on a highly traveled area on M-72 West.
“Increasing the number of vehicles turning in and out makes the whole set up dangerous,” he said.
Sloan also raised the issue of drainage and runoff that would come off the parking lot and potentially contaminate the lake.
“This area was designated as a wetlands area – let’s preserve that,” Sloan said.
Carolyn Merz, who owns a marina in Grand Haven and has property on Lake Margrethe, questioned if there would be enough liability insurance to cover the dock. Boat owners would also have to carry their own insurance.
She also said that boats would need to be pulled from the water to be fueled.
“I don’t feel that this is the proper place for it,” Merz said.
Brad Lapworth said there would be no fueling system on site.
“We’re going to have a parking lot and boat slips – that’s it,” he said.
Lapworth said that there would be a porta-john on site for people to use and proper trash disposal to clean up rubbish in the area.
“We have been doing all along anyway,” he said about picking up trash along M-72 West.
Carl Ek, who traveled to the meeting from Northfield and who has property on the lake, said jet skis, swimmers and visitors to people who own the boats could crowd the area.
“I see a lot of potential for abuse,” he said.
The meeting got testy at times, with people talking back and forth.
Jerry Gosnell, the chairman of the Grayling Charter Township Planning Commission, used a gavel a number of times to bring order back to the meeting.
“You need to listen and you need to learn in fact what is being proposed,” Gosnell told the crowd.
Cynthia Kroger, who traveled to the meeting from Indianapolis, asked why the dock was not located closer to the Lapworth’s residence.
“It’s interesting, if it’s such a great idea, why can’t it be by his house?” she asked.
Jim DeWitt, who has a cottage on the lake, urged planning commission members to use common sense when considering the permit. He also questioned the feasibility of having a commercial dock for a boating season which lasts five months.
“We no sooner get the thing in and you take it back out again,” he said.
DeWitt also questioned the environmental impact the dock and increased boats would have on the lake, especially for fish.
“That’s got to be one of the biggest fish bed areas there is on the whole lake,” he said.
Mike McNamara said having a commercial operation could set a precedent, creating ownership and access legal issues like property owners on Higgins Lake and Houghton Lake have wrestled with.
“I can’t see any benefit at all with having this done on a pristine lake,” McNamara said.
John Petruska, from Kent City, said he has been coming up to Lake Margrethe since he was six months old.
“It’s always been a thrill to come down M-72 to be the first one that sees the lake,” he said. “Now, in that little opening, we’re going to look at a porta-john.”
Cathleen Apley, who purchased property on the lake last June, said residents need more information about the proposal.
“We need a proper plan,” she said. “We need to do it right the first time.”
Grayling Charter Township Supervisor Rich Harland said planners would ask for a proper site plan for the dock and check to make sure the proposal complies with township ordinances. He said the public input would be taken into consideration by the planning commission along with consulting the township attorney.
Gosnell said any decision on the permit would not come until a meeting slated to be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25. He said that would give township officials time to investigate the proposal and add additional requirements for the permit.
“This is not a rubber stamp deal,” Gosnell said.