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News for December 2, 2021

Michigan Citizen Group Files Lawsuit To Halt RV Park Construction

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BELLAIRE — A lawsuit and injunctive relief request were filed by a Michigan citizen group to stop work on the site of an RV park planned for Torch Lake’s shoreline village, a Record Eagle report says.

The parties reached an agreement after a hearing on July 19 regarding the preliminary injunction request.

Five days later, a thunderstorm flooded the site and sent sand & silt rushing downhill to Terry Roote’s lawn.

According to the report, Roote stated this week that the development was successful until the developer arrived with a large excavator and dug an area to retain runoff.

“It wouldn’t be as bad if there was clear water. But that has not been my experience. This is the fourth time I have had clay and silt in my yard,” Roote said.

Local authorities rejected site plans and a request for a special permit for RV park development near Torch Lake, Torch River, and Skegemog Lake.

The new citizen group Torch Elk Skemog Alliance, which was formed last month, filed suit against Jim and Lori Brewer who are the developers of Torch River RV Park in Antrim County’s Milton Township. Antrim Conservation District was also named in a civil suit for its role in permitting soil erosion at the RV park site.

According to documents filed with the 13th Circuit Court, the suit claims that the court should issue a preliminary injunction to protect the natural resources and public trust from adverse environmental impacts. The plaintiffs point out Roote’s experience as evidence that the project is a public nuisance.

The suit claims that TESA and the public have suffered irreparable harm from the original excavation and vegetation removal on the property, the report said.

Rebecca Millican, Traverse City-based plaintiff, could not be reached this week for comment, as could Andrew Blodgett (also of Traverse City).

In a brief filed to the court, the defendant argues that ongoing work on the site is necessary to stop erosion and would be detrimental to the plaintiff’s interests. It also claims that no natural resources are at risk.

The brief states that “This is an absurd request by an entity which claims it exists to protect the environment,”

TESA’s leader strongly disagreed with this statement and stated that the actions of the developer caused the problem from the beginning.

Tim Smith, president of TESA, stated that “the big thing we’re trying to do is eliminate erosion and repeat flooding on the Roote property.”

These problems were caused by non-permitted clear-cutting of hillside sites.

Smith stated, “Without any vegetation to absorb the water or slow it down it’s going again and again.”

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power heard arguments about the injunction request in mid-July. TESA Roote, the developer, and TESA had agreed to different terms.

  • The slopes of eroded areas will not be as steep as possible.
  • The environmental consultants for the plaintiff will collaborate with an arborist to develop a revegetation program that includes native plants and trees.
  • Developer’s engineers will give calculations to calculate the size of retention ponds to plaintiffs’ consultants.
  • A gravel access road will be taken out, topsoil will be laid and the area will become vegetated.
  • Developers will give TESA’s attorney copies to all township and conservation district officials for a period of one year.
  • The judge will oversee.

Smith stated that TESA’s environmental experts are currently reviewing the RV park’s design according to those terms.

In the report, he stated that “we have a strong case to make the improvements we’re proposing.”

Antrim Conservation District officials were unable to be reached for comment. The public entity has not yet been represented by an attorney.

Sheryl Guy, Antrim County Clerk, stated that a settlement conference was set for the civil case on February 15th next year and that non-jury trials were scheduled for March 15-16. However, this is only if the pending agreement falls apart.

When township planning commissioners considered the 80-site plan for a hillside in Torch River village, the RV park was a hot topic. A public meeting was held at a local park to discuss the issue. More than 120 people attended, most of them to voice their opposition during last year’s pandemic restrictions.

The RV park’s proponents claimed that the plan was permitted under existing zoning regulations and that the landowner could make whatever he liked with it. It didn’t matter if neighbors disagreed, they’ve said it repeatedly.

Opponents argued that the plan would allow for too many camping spots in a community already well-known for its summertime chaos, and stormwater and septic runoff would adversely affect the environment as well as neighbors.

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