After multiple failed attempts to place a driveway through the Barrier Dunes Sanctuary, the Bro G Land Company may get their wish after amendments to the Michigan Sand Dune Protection and Management Act change the way permits are issued.
Gov. Rick Snyder approved a bill last year that amended the Michigan Sand Dune Protection and Management section of the Environmental Protection Act that could effect White River Township.
The intent of the amendments was to make it easier for private property owners to build driveways, homes and garages on their property within critical dune areas.
According to Nancy Cuncannan, environmental quality analyst, the Department of Environmentally Quality (DEQ) Water Resources Division received an application for a permit from the Bro G Land Company on Feb. 12. The applicant is seeking authorization for the construction of an access road, development of a residential building site and installation of a septic system within a Critical Dune area and High Risk Erosion area in White River Township.
While in the past, the DEQ has denied the permits, this year may see a different outcome.
In previous years when the Bro G Land Company was denied a permit through the DEQ based on the fact that the driveway would cause significant harm to the land.
The new wording in the act states that a permit “shall be approved unless the local unit of government or the department determines that the use will significantly damage the public interest on the privately owned land, or if the land is publicly owned, the public interest in the publicly owned land, by significant and unreasonable depletion or degradation.”
This requires that the local government, or in this case the DEQ, show that this project would significantly harm the land. Previously, that burden was placed on the private property owner.
Another change to the act are the rules regarding a public hearing. The new wording states that in order to have a public hearing held, two or more people who own real property within two miles of the project shall submit a written request for a hearing. This new section cuts out environmental groups that have an interest in protecting the dune, unless a person in that group owns property within two miles of the project.
According to Cuncannan, a public hearing will be scheduled, but the date has not been set yet.
Other changes to the dune section of the Environmental Protection Act can be viewed at http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-451-1994-iii-1-land-habitats-353.