Township, resident in zoning dispute

Move the garage or not move the garage — that is still the question.
Becky Vargo
Jun 15, 2013


Grand Haven Township officials are considering a settlement offer on a zoning case that’s been a thorn in their side since 2007.

Homeowner Mike Risko hopes it will be resolved when the Township Board meets June 24. But his family may not find out the answer until a bench trial on one part of the case is held in September.

The Terry Trails home belonging to Mike and Rebecca Risko should never have been constructed the way it was, pending the court case, according to Sue Robertson, chairwoman of the township's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Although the Riskos received a state permit to build a home in a critical dune zone, they were denied a variance by the township to decrease the setback so a garage could be built on the side of the house.

Robertson said the township zoning board instead suggested an alternative location, with the garage facing the road, eliminating the need for a variance.

Rather than modify their plan, the Riskos appealed the decision in Ottawa County Circuit Court. Judge Jon Van Allsburg made what the township considered an incorrect ruling in favor of Risko, said Township Manager Bill Cargo.

Van Allsburg’s ruling noted that the zoning board “failed to find that practical difficulties did exist and failed to reasonably exercise its discretion to grant this variance when it had granted nearly the identical variance in similar cases.”

The township appealed that ruling and won the case at the state Appellate Court level, reversing the county judge’s decision.

While the case was under appeal, the Riskos proceeded to build their home as they had planned.

Risko is a local attorney.

“Every lawyer I’ve ever met knows the judge ruling is not final,” Roberston said.

Van Allsburg said it is an unfortunate situation.

"They went ahead and built with a court-ordered building permit, knowing this case was still under appeal," the judge said. "It’s simply the risk they took.”

Cargo said at the time the building permit was approved, the Riskos were also notified that the garage would have to be removed if the Appellate Court reversed Van Allsburg’s decision.

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



Sound simple the resident broke the process, and the law, maybe a little arrogance, with a little greed, the township is correct.


It does sound that simple then both sides would of moved on long ago. Is Is Terry Trails a private road with private homes on it. Does this area have a land covenant??? What does the other property owner say about this???? If it does not bother the owners or a violation of the property covenant then why is the Twp need to get involved other then with the building codes under state law. Really how much more money does the twp need to waste of bully tactics....


I am familiar with that house. It's really a nice-looking home. This is a classic example of local government refusing to work with the people they are paid to serve and instead bully them to prove they are in charge. What a waste of tax dollars and a monumental headache for a family that everyone seems to like. Just give them the variance, Cargo, and stop wasting our money. You don't have to admit you did anything wrong, even though the Judge was less than impressed with your process. Don't forget who pays your salary.


I agree. If you look at the aerial view of that home, there are houses all over the place. It seems that the local govt is picking on them and that they are trying show who's boss. It's stupid. Why were other homes allowed to built in that same area? Makes no sense.


newspaperlawyer and Boater I agree with both of you. I would characterize this as silly if it weren't for the fact that this family is being put through the ringer for no apparent good reason. Instead it makes me angry. Situations like this make me us all unhappy with government officials who seem earn less and less trust from the public every year.

Remind me again, what exactly is the problem?


I think this explains the situation quite well: http://www.theobjectivestandard....


How much of our taxpayers' money has the Township spent pursuing this silly matter? Every time you pay your taxes, please remember this silly issue and the public 'servants' who are forcing this upon us. How dare they waste our money on such a nonissue! Vladtheimp's link above summarizes it perfectly; these petty "Little Dictators" are intent on demonstrating their 'power' and cloaking it under the veil of illogical and obscure zoning ordinances instead of using common sense. They should be embarrassed to be pursuing this matter to the extent they have.


Of course the Buitenhuis is bullying Charlifoux and Cargo so they need a dog to kick. We have a dysfunctional family on our hands.


Of course the Buitenhuis is bullying Charlifoux and Cargo so they need a dog to kick. We have a dysfunctional family on our hands.


They were issued a building permit, the final inspection and an occupancy permit.....The home looks like its been there for a while from the picture including the landscaping, now this? If you look at an aerial view of other homes in the area, there's at least 5 or 6 other homes in close proximity that also have side entrance garages on Brucker St and Dewberry Pl. What's the big deal?

A nice looking home without any others that close to make a difference to anyone, more waste of hard working tax payers money on something as trivial as this. Get over it Grand Haven Township.

Township Resident

The resident knew the rules and regulations before he built the house, however, he did it anyway. Why should they not apply to him? The garage needs to be moved. There is nothing special about this house or this person.


The point is that there are zoning ordinances in every city and township that have to be followed. If people don't like the ordinances, they should repeal them. In this case an attorney has driven up the attorney fees of the Township. There is no bullying involved. It has nothing to do with the way the garage faces, it has to do with the setbacks. Do you want someone building closer than permitted to your property? The real question is why won't the judge enforce the law? If this case involved someone who did something illegal and it impacted on YOU would you want the law upheld? Lots of other people have violated township ordinances and had to remove their buildings. Why is Mr. Risko allowed to knowingly violate the law AND cost the taxpayers money? Why shouldn't we all do it now?


Was the landowner issued a building permit by Grand Haven Twp???? Did the building inspector inspect this building project??? if so and the project was approved... then it sounds like the problem lies in the Inspectors Department then. Attend the next Twp board meeting and watch the circus clowns in action. Its about time we make this board accountable... they work for us.


Exactly! Sounds like the owners need a refund on their permit fee!


Well once the lower court judge reverses the Zoning Board and orders the township to issue a building permit. The township has to do it. I think that normally when an appeal is filed to the Court of
Appeals, the lower court usually suspends any orders until the higher court rules. That's why it is risky to keep going until the Appeals Court rules. That's why the whole thing is very odd.


It was idiotic to continue building until the final ruling was made. The owner of the home brought this on himself and I agree that it is he that is wasting government time and resources. We have zoning laws because they protect you and your property. No variance was warranted anyway. Sorry, but we can't just let people do whatever they want anymore unless you live in the boonies. Welcome to organized society. If you don't like it, I'm sure the U.P. has a place for you. Take it down "Mr. Bigger than everyone else." You lost this one.


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