The Gezon Property, which is adjacent to the Barrier Dunes Sanctuary. The owners have applied for a permit to place a driveway through the sanctuary to access their property.
Twenty years after White River Township created the Barrier Dune Sanctuary, and after a land company tried multiple times and failed to place a driveway through the sanctuary, that group of individuals is once again stirring the pot.
The Bro G Land Company (William, David and Timothy Gezon), which owns a landlocked piece of property adjacent to the Barrier Dune Sanctuary, has applied for a permit through the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to build a driveway to the property where it plans to build a house.
After White River Township created the dune sanctuary, it has tried to purchase the Gezon property multiple times through state grants. The township was denied grants through the Michigan Land Trust Grant multiple times, but it finally secured a grant in the amount of around $480,000 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in 2006.
The township made an offer to the land owners, but it was denied.
“They just weren’t willing sellers, and we couldn’t afford what they were asking,” White River Supervisor Mike Cockerill said.
The township couldn’t get any more funding from the state because the initial amount was based on the appraisal, and the amount that the Bro G Land Company was asking for exceeded the appraisal price.
After the few years of constant issues, it was quiet for a while until recently when the land company applied for a permit again to place a driveway through the Barrier Dunes Sanctuary.
Cockerill and the township found out about the permit recently, since the Bro G Land Company applied for one on Feb. 12.
Surveyors from the DEQ were at the property in the past couple weeks to take samples and information regarding the new application.
Ever since the beginning of this project, the township’s role has been to protect the land, and according to Cockerill, the township will not break the trust.
“It is the township’s duty to protect the land,” Cockerill said. The DEQ could grant the permit, which, he said, would mean the public trust would be broken.
While Cockerill said the township has never gone to court over the issue because the DEQ has denied the applications, it could be a possibility.
“It’s too early to say, but we’re committed to protecting the land,” Cockerill said.
A public hearing may be held on the issue if two or more people who own real property within two miles of the project location submit requests in writing to the DEQ by March 12.
Cockerill expects a public hearing to be held because of the large amount of public and community support witnessed in the past to protect the land.
At this time, a decision must be made by the DEQ by May 12. That date could change if additional information is needed from the applicant, a public hearing is held, or the applicant requests an extension. Any landowner who owns property within two miles may submit a request for a public hearing to the DEQ at the following address: DEQ, Nancy Cuncannan, 350 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 and reference the file number 13-61-0017-P.