By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE — A few Berrien County road commissioners listened to an ongoing argument Thursday concerning street access in a Lincoln Township subdivision.
More than 20 people spoke during a two-hour public hearing the Road Commission held in response to an application to use Lake Street’s right-of-way in Grande Mere.
Oselka Construction submitted an application in July to use Lake Street and an adjoining south parking lot to dump material that would be used for shoreline protection on four private homes.
The homeowners said their homes would eventually be lost to an encroaching shoreline if boulders aren’t installed along the beach.
“Boulders are the only successful, longstanding support along the waterfront,” said Jim Harris, one of the four homeowners seeking to implement boulder placement. “It breaks up the wave action more effectively. We’re paying the bill for this thing. We tried finding private property access, but Lake Street was the only access that made any sense.”
Residents that spoke against the application argued that allowing any heavy machinery to use the street would cause irreparable damage to the road, trees and beach.
“I don’t think anybody in this room believes that any homeowners are not entitled to protect their property,” said Peter Wind, who lives near the beach and the road’s access point. “To me it’s a question of alternatives. I have not seen much discussion of what other alternatives exist.”
Brian Berndt, an engineer with the Road Commission, told audience members that a decision would not be made at Thursday’s meeting.
Instead, commissioners would take the public’s comments – along with several more letters and emails – back to the board and make a decision on the application at its Aug. 24 meeting.
“The rule permits (the Road Commission) the road right-of-way from Dunham Avenue to the lake,” Berndt explained. “The permit would allow the contractor to use the right-of-way to have access to be able to install some erosion protection.”
If Oselka were to get its permit from the Road Commission, the construction company would still have to seek additional permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
While the application stated work would begin in September and end in May, an Oselka representative at Thursday’s meeting said it would be completed sometime in between that timeframe. The company would also use a little over half the south parking lot along Lake Street.
Berndt, who led the public hearing, said the Road Commission has come across an application like this before.
“About 10 years ago, we had an application with Pine Street as well,” Berndt said. “We had the same public hearing as we did tonight. Same process.”