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Write to Senator Victory

This is an Open Letter to one of the State Senators who has shown an interest and concern about disappearing farms and green spaces in Ottawa County

Dear Senator Victory,

I’m writing to you with regard to the shockingly fast disappearance of our farmland to development in Ottawa County.

I understand this a particular concern of yours and I hope to apprise you of what is happening in Spring Lake Township and perhaps elicit your help.

Over the past 4 years, including during Covid, our Planning Commission with the support of our then Supervisor, worked in tandem with Eastbrook Homes to overly develop a 97 acre working blueberry field (zoned AG) to the tune of 353 homes (that’s three times anything currently in Spring Lake, a tiny little township).They manipulated the Master Plan to aline with the needs and wants of the developer, using taxpayer monies to do so.

Previously the land was zoned AG and RR. Most if not all the residents here live on larger acreage and many for generations. The Planning Commission purposely kept all of this on the down low, with no community  involvement sessions, no large ads in the paper or Facebook,  no notifications sent to residents about the proposed changes to the Master Plan. It was signed into law in Nov 2022.

All the citizens surveys between 2011- 2023 placed the health of Spring Lake and the preservation of agricultural and green spaces in the Township as the top two priorities of the residents. This was blatantly ignored by the township officials, by changing the Master Plan to reflect the exact opposite and clear the way for Eastbrook’s massive development.

The citizens, through my group, Spring Lake TWP Citizens Group and others,  protested vehemently.

We produced  a change dot org petition of protest with 400 signatures which was completely ignored by the Planning Commission. We researched the ordnance which controls the rezoning and application for change and development and found many many errors in Eastbrook’s application, which  was duly presented to the Planning Commission and was duly turned over to Eastbrook and then ignored again.

Hundreds of residents  have been to the meetings and spoken up.  When the Trustees finally passed the rezone for R1 zoning (281 homes), the citizens were so upset that we were able conduct a petition drive for a referendum in less than 28 days with over 2300 signatures.

This placed the rezoning on the February ballot. I have no doubt we will win the referendum and we could have started fresh with residential input and a reasonable housing solution. These homes WILL NOT BE AFFORDABLE, as the Township and Eastbrook have claimed, they will start at $750,000 and further there are at least 200 homes and lots available right now in Spring Lake. Another 281 is not needed.

When the township clerk announced that we had passed the number of signatures needed to put our referendum on the ballot, the township began negotiations with Eastbrook, as they have sued the township because they wanted the original R2 zoning the Planning Commission recommended and they requested. The Trustees agreed to R1 as a “compromise”.

The outcome of the secret negotiations which had no residential input, was a settlement of 195 homes. That is unacceptable to the residents and these negotiations have effectively cut our efforts off at the knees. We would have had the opportunity to get this right, but for the pointedly obvious deference to the developer at the cost of the residents.

The Township recognized our potential win and made it impossible for the residents to prevail.

We could use your help, your voice, your gravitas, anything you can offer.

This is the last agricultural piece of land and one of the very last green open spaces in Spring Lake as well.

We have serious concerns about storm water run off into Spring Lake, which is already filthy, and the drainage of those pollutants to Lake Michigan.

I can provide you with any information that you might need to better understand what is happening here on the Lakeshore. Our neighbors in Nunica are fighting the same battle with Eastbrook right on Spring Lake Townships border and if we don’t do something quickly, we will look just like every other town in American with subdivision after subdivision with little or no green space or agricultural land to be seen, and an even more filthy Spring Lake and Lake Michigan.

We plan recalls and serious challenges to the people now in elected office in November, but we need help now. We need a voice larger and louder then ours to help protect what is special and intrinsic to Ottawa County.  My hope is that we in the Tri-Cities area and beyond can form citizens groups that will have a better and stronger voice in how their communities grow and develop, as so many of the elected officials no longer are listening to the people who voted them in.

Can we count on your help? There are many ways to do so and I sincerely and passionately ask you to think about how you can assist us.

Thank you for your consideration and time is hearing this matter.

As an aside, are you aware of the 631 acres being offered in Ottawa county, all of which is former blueberry farms? The bids are due January 31, this is a disaster for the farming community and the broken promise of future preservation of green space and agricultural land for our children.

Kristina Ellis

Spring Lake Township Citizens Group

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