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Ontwa Zoning Board approves DNR proposal

Published 12:30pm Thursday, March 6, 2014

The creation of a boat launching site on Eagle Lake came one step closer to reality Feb. 25 when the Ontwa Township Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-3 in favor of designating property at the east end of Eagle Lake as a park.

The two-acre site that was zoned lake residential now allows for a boat launching site and boat trailer parking with access to Eagle, Christiana, Juno and Painter lakes.

The action came following the zoning administrator’s interpretation that the property would constitute a park for development by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A motion made by Brian Dell on the board of appeals stated the property met the definition of a park because it will be a non-commercial, not-for-profit facility that will be owned and managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It said that recreational activities to include boating and fishing would serve the recreational needs of the community by providing an area to park boat trailers and cars so people can launch watercraft.

The property is part of the Dock property that was recently purchased by a group of Eagle Lake residents prior to plans by the MDNR to buy it.

The four board members who voted for the park designation were Gary Watercamp, Tom Pabreza, Dell and board Chairman Larry Banghart.

Those who voted against it were Jerry Marchetti, Frank Lapierre and Marilyn Cobb.

The MDNR’s plans for the site are to build a boat launch on the edge of Eagle Lake which will open up the lake to boaters and fishermen. There will be parking spaces for 16 vehicles with trailers, six spots for cars and a restroom. The map also shows an access ramp to Juno, Christiana and Painter lakes.

The road right-of-way along the edge of Eagle Lake Road has been open to the public where picnickers and swimmers gather during the summer months. During the winter months, many ice fishermen fish the lake.

Some people questioned why the park plan does not include a shelter and picnic tables, grills and playground equipment, noting the area wasn’t large enough.

Margie Allan, president of the Eagle Lake Improvement Association, made an appeal to the board citing that on Sept. 3 last year the zoning board of appeals ruled that a DNR proposed boat access site was not a park. She said the zoning administrator’s recent decision, “no matter how well intentioned is erroneous and procedurally flawed.”

Allan added that without filing an appeal, the lake association would be agreeing that almost any future proposed use in lake residential zoning could be construed as a park, “a dangerous precedent.”

However, former Cass County Commissioner Carl Higley Sr. showed that he had 279 signatures in favor of the lot being rezoned as a park. He said he has collected names from all over the county including two county board members, the sheriff and the prosecutor. “We want the lake to be available to the public.”

Marchetti questioned why he did not receive replies about questions he had about amenities on the park site such as picnic tables, a playground area and boat washing. He said he sent copies to the township and MDNR and never heard responses from anybody.

Paul Yauk from the MDNR replied that at this time they are looking at the board of appeals’ decision if it met the criteria of a park. He said when the department gets to that point of development, the amenities can be addressed.

The next step was for the planning commission to review the decision Wednesday night.

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