Dear Mr. Dan Coffey: This letter is in response to your article in the June 17, 2021 Harbor Country News. I give you credit for shedding light on what is very real but rarely spoken of: the tension between “locals” and “visitors” in a tourist-dependent economy.
I believe you have made one glaring error in the description of the “tribes.” You included second homeowners in the “Visitors” tribe, along with short-term renters and day-trippers. This completely disregards the many ways second homeowners, particularly long-term owners of second homes, contribute to the community and benefit the “locals.”
Many second homeowners have long histories in SW Michigan. Their homes have been passed down by prior generations. Others (as ourselves) purchased their homes many years ago and are as invested in the welfare of our communities as any “local,” if not more.
Second homeowners pay property tax at a significantly higher rate than permanent owners. This has provided this area with a stable tax base to support the local infrastructure. For decades we have kept the local small shrinking school districts afloat that should have been consolidated years ago in order to provide more options for students at lower cost per student.
Second homeowners led the successful drive to preserve the 30+ acres of woods at Tower Hill Camp that, if sold, could be developed with 130-plus condominiums. For locals who would have been impacted by that development, this is significant. Second homeowners also actively supported the successful drive to acquire additional lakeshore property at Cherry Beach. And they support local environmental organizations such as Chikaming Open Lands, Deer Creek Open Space Association that preserve the quality of life for all of us – “locals” and “visitors” alike.
Local charitable organizations benefit from second homeowners’ participation and contributions. Ask the leaders of Harbert Community Church and Church of the Mediator “Who volunteers to work at Feed America food truck food distribution several times a month?” It is hard heavy work and many second homeowners help.
Add support of the Rotary Club Road Rally fundraiser, Pass-the-Hat time at the Saturday night concert in Three Oaks, buying tickets at the Acorn and the Vickers Movie Theatre.
Second homeowners take pride in their homes, and want – or need – to maintain and/or improve them, providing steady employment for builders, carpenters, plumbers, roofers, electricians, heating contractors, appliance dealers and repairpersons, painters, landscapers, window-washers, and home furnishings companies.
Our own community in the last year has experienced personal situations during which the residents pulled together to respond to the emergency with no distinction between the full-time and the part-time folks.
Even though we cannot vote, we pay close attention to the actions of the local government officials. This is not, as you say, to change the laws in our favor. We want to preserve the character of this area as badly as any local. We attended the Chikaming Township zoom meeting regarding beach erosion, and applaud the Township leaders’ decision to resist demands for environmentally damaging materials to be placed on the lake shore during the high lake level.
I am sorry the restaurant woman has a “love/hate” relationship with visitor customers. It’s a tough business. But restaurants are not the only business that has to deal with rude, demanding customers; but they do it because it provides their livelihood, and most people are reasonable.
I am not looking for a medal here. Living in “Harbor Country” is reward enough. But don’t lump us second homeowners into a category with those who come for a day or more at the beach or to drink a lot of beer. And do not characterize us as “demanding, dissatisfied and argumentative.” When not maligned in the newspaper, we are as agreeable and laid-back as any “local.”
Thanks for reading through this.
Clyde and Nancy Rode