Taxpayers shouldn't bear costs

To the Editor: I was most interested in the Tribune's version of the Risko lawsuit involving a zoning issue in Grand Haven Township (June 15).
Jun 19, 2013


Risko is an attorney who decided to build his home in violation of the township zoning ordinance after he failed to obtain a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Although a local judge overturned the ZBA's ruling, Risko was notified that an appeal was pending to the Court of Appeals. 

As an attorney, Risko knew full-well that there was every chance the local judge's ruling would be overturned, but he built his garage anyway.

And now, for some reason, the Circuit Court judge has declined to order Risko to remove the garage. Risko continues to file motion after motion seeking to avoid the enforcement clearly stated in the township's ordinance. Each time, the township must respond — driving the attorney fees, which must be paid by the taxpayers, higher and higher. Other residents whose variance requests have been denied have had to follow the law and remove additions, pole barns, porches, decks, accessory buildings and the like.

The ZBA has expressed concern to the Township Board that residents might see a settlement that does not repay township taxpayers as setting a double standard of enforcement, allowing those with the ability to drive up the legal costs of the township, costs which are borne by the taxpayers at large, to circumvent the zoning laws. And attorney fees are expected to go even higher as Risko continues to try and find a way to come into compliance with the law.

The ZBA has advocated for equity as to how residents are treated in terms of like remedies. In a case where an applicant knowingly pursued a path which was clearly a dangerous one from a legal standpoint, and lost, the taxpayers should not bear the burden.

— Susan Robertson, Grand Haven Township



I would be willing to bet the township has given other variances in similar cases. This has nothing to do with Mr. Risko abusing local taxpayers. It has everything to do with local government doing more to hindrance it's tax paying residents than saving them money, and furthermore the house is beautiful. It would be a shame if this case continues any further. Give him the variance and move on. This is ridiculous.


@GH ... why even have the laws if we are simply going to "give him the variance and move on." I have no idea who Mr. Risko is, but clearly he is trying hard to keep his garage. It is interesting that someone with a little wealth like Mr. Risko (assumed by the published value of his home, etc) seems to want to file motion after motion after motion at the cost of Grand Haven Township taxpayers (needing to respond). If Mr. Risko can simply push around the township until he gets his way then why even have these zoning laws in the first place.


Dear Christopher, if I didn't know this situation personally I would be inclined to agree with you, however, Mr. Risko has tried numerous times to come into compliance with this issue that makes normal sense. This is an unfortunate situation, and I feel this is another example of local government (i.e. certain individuals who need to feel powerful) abusing their local residents. Spot on Mr. Risko!


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