Dune regulations loosened

A new law penned by state Sen. Arlan Meekhof aims to ensure a proper balance exists between environmental protection and economic development in Michigan's critical dune areas.
Alex Doty
Aug 27, 2012

“Sand dunes are a unique feature of Michigan’s shoreline, and we need to safeguard these natural wonders for future generations to enjoy without hindering economic development,” said Meekhof, R-West Olive. “I sponsored this new law to help ensure that we conserve our state’s natural beauty while allowing for progress.”

The law amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994 to exempt certain types of activities in critical dune areas that currently need a permit from needing one in the future.

Among other things, the law requires that the DEQ approve a permit unless a local unit of government or the DEQ itself determines it is more likely than not that any harm to the environment resulting from the proposed use will significantly damage the public interest by degrading the diversity, quality or function of the dune.

It also requires local governments and the DEQ to provide written decisions regarding permits that are based on evidence that satisfy requirements under the Administrative Procedures Act.

“I don’t think that it will be causing us any problems in Grand Haven,” Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said of the new state law.

McGinnis said the city also has regulations in place, so that if the new law does happen to loosen requirements too much, there are measures in place to prevent environmental damage.

“We do have our own overlay district, which is another area of regulation,” he said.

McGinnis noted that all of the city's designated critical dunes are within the sensitive area overlay zone.

“We are all for fluid development,” McGinnis said. “We don’t overburden them with senseless legislation.”

Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger said the city takes steps when potential development is proposed for his city's dunes.

“Critical dunes encompass a considerable area on (Ferrysburg's) west side,” Bessinger said. “The city doesn’t issue building permits for this area until a DEQ permit is obtained.”

Bessinger said the Ferrysburg zoning ordinance also requires the same setbacks for properties in the critical dune areas as it does for low-density residential dwellings.

Grand Haven Township officials said they aren’t aware of any instances in which the newly enacted state legislation would change anything there.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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