HARBERT — After a lengthy discussion on the matter during their April 8 meeting, members of the Chikaming Township Board voted unanimously to approve a motion defining the language of a permit application to be used by lakefront property owners seeking to install sandbags and/or geotubes to protect their land from erosion.

Among other things, the permitting language declares that the permit for sandbags or geotubes will be valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance, and that the permit will automatically renew each year for a period of five years unless the township determines that water levels have receded significantly enough that the primary shoreline structure is no longer in danger and the sandbags or geotubes may be removed without damage to the primary shoreline structure; or the township determines that the sandbags or geotubes have been damaged so that they are no longer preventing erosion or are otherwise determined to be a nuisance, dangerous, or a hazardous condition.

Previously Chikaming adopted an ordinance opposing the installation of “hard armoring” along the lakeshore that would interfere with, prohibit, block, or prevent persons from easily walking, accessing, and/or traversing the area below the ordinary high water mark of Lake Michigan from Townline Avenue in Union Pier to Warren Dunes State Park through the township.

Fees associated with the permit application were determined to be a charge of $400 for the initial application, and an additional $300 annual inspection fee, plus any review necessary that takes over two hours to be billed post-inspection at $125 per hour.

It was noted that it would be the burden of the property owner and the contractor or installer to assure the integrity of the installation and its impact on the environment.

Township Supervisor David Bunte said, “This will be an evolving process, but this gets us out of the gate. There’s a subjective nature to some of the language that we’re going to have to live with.”

Trustee Rich Sullivan said he felt it was important that the process not be slowed down or become too cumbersome for the lakefront property owners filling out the application.

Trustee Bill Marske said that the new application process would be a learning experience for the township as well as the homeowners.

In a related matter, there was unanimous consent on a motion to contract the services of the Wightman engineering consulting firm to oversee the new shoreline protection process.

Their services will include reviewing any shoreline protection applications required by the township.

In addition, they will make annual/biannual visits on installations to investigate: whether or not erosion is occurring in front of the installation moving sand further offshore, impacting the stability of the sandbags/tubes; whether or not downdrift erosion is not occurring (not functioning as intended); if damage is present on the installation that requires corrective action; and determining if the lake level has receded to the point where the installation is no longer needed.

In other business, there was unanimous approval on a motion to raise the Zoning Permit fee from $50 to $75; and the Demolition Permit fee from $50 to $200.

Newly appointed Zoning Administrator Kelly Largent was introduced and welcomed. She will replace the retiring Van Thornton.

Bunte reported that the two required appraisals for the Reed Beidler Trust property adjacent to Cheery Beach had been completed and submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund for their review and determination of the fair market value of that parcel that has become known as “The Cherry Beach Product.” That review is expected to be completed within 90 days.

He also reported that the Union Pier/Red Arrow Highway Improvement Project continues to move along, and that hopefully it will be completed by the end of May.

Also on the agenda, there was unanimous approval on a motion to follow the recommendation of Fire Chief Mike Davidson to hire Emily Frazier as a part-time Medical First Responder/Water Rescue for the fire department.

Finally, there was good news and bad news given during a presentation by consultant Tom Traciak on the current financial status of the Water Department and Sewer Department during the Utility Board meeting that convened after the Township Board meeting adjourned.

The good news he reported was that the Water Fund continued to be in a very strong cash position, and no rate increase for water customers was necessary, with a recommendation that its status be reevaluated within three to five years.

However, Traciak also reported that expenditures were outweighing revenues in the Sewer Department, and to stabilize that condition for the Sewer Fund a rate increase may become a necessity in the 2022/23 fiscal year. He suggested a one-time $7 increase for that next fiscal year, then a possible additional $2.50 annual increase in subsequent fiscal years.

The township will reevaluate the condition of the Sewer Fund in December to determine whether or not a rate increase is necessary and what that increase may be for the next fiscal year that begins April 1.

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