By Rosemary K. Otzman
The proposed floating dock system and canoe/kayak launch due to be constructed this summer at Horizon Park – with a Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant of $120,700 — has been put on hold until a whole lot of red tape is unraveled.
At the July 16 meeting of the Belleville Downtown Development Authority, DDA Coordinator Carol Thompson explained the situation.
“Van Buren Township has decided the City of Belleville and Belleville DDA proposed floating dock system and canoe/kayak launch must receive Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) approval prior to construction,” Thompson said.
She presented the following timeline to the DDA on the FERC approval process as she currently knows it:
1. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) permit application – The MDEQ requires a permission letter from the township for improvements on township property which is Belleville Lake up to the 655’ contour line. Our project application is ready to submit to MDEQ as soon as we receive the township’s permission letter.
2. Van Buren Township lake permission letter – Prior to issuing a lake permission letter, the township is requiring the DDA and City to agree in writing to accept the township’s requirement for FERC approval, then VBT will issue their permission letter for the Horizon Park project’s MDEQ application.
3. Michigan department of Environmental Quality Permit Application – MDEQ will review the application and either ask for more information, return to us with their comments, or decide to hold a public comment period, before approving the permit.
4. Van Buren Township and STS Hydropower – VBT and STS are co-licensees for the Belleville Lake-French Landing FERC (dam) license.
When MDEQ approves the permit, the township forwards copies of the application to STS Hydropower and three state agencies: State Historic Preservation Office, Fish and Wildlife, and MDNR for their review and comments.
Once any comments from the three state agencies have been received and addressed, then STS will complete their review, either ask the City/DDA for changes or recommend the project.
VBT and STS will file the application requesting FERC approval to authorize the proposed project.
5. Federal Energy Regulation Commission approval – A part of the FERC process will be to issue a public notice for comments. Following the close of the public comment period, FERC will complete their review and make a recommendation.
Thompson said the DNR grant the city and DDA have necessitates building the project by 2016. That is without asking for an extension.
“I hope we can build in 2015,” she said.
Thompson said Mayor Kerreen Conley and DDA chairman John Hoops signed an agreement letter with Van Buren Township and a full packet went to the MDEQ. There may be a public hearing. After MDEQ approves the permit it will go to FERC, Thompson said.
Thompson said in January, 2012, “Everything was a go” and it continued that way until May, “and then they changed their mind,” she said of the township.
“I can’t understand,” said vice chairman Gary Snarski. “We go to them, they approved, and now they’ve changed their mind.”
When asked who made the decision, Thompson said it was “an internal decision we’re not a part of” and the change was decided on between the VBT supervisor’s and planning offices.
“Three communities should be working together,” Snarski continued. He said VBT surrounds the city of Belleville.
“We may lose that grant,” he said.
Snarski said the project now is being decided by others, “While we sit here sucking our thumb… I just hope they (VBT) don’t ever have to come here” for an approval.
Thompson said she feels the DDA should notify the other partners who wrote letters supporting the project.
City Manager Diana Kollmeyer said she’s getting phone calls from people asking about the kayak launch and the DDA put up a wayfinding sign that says “kayak.”
Thompson said they will have to figure out something for the signs. When Snarski said they could put up a sign in the kiosk to say the project was on hold, Thompson said that the present kiosk leaks like a sieve.
Hoops suggested laminating the notice in plastic.
“Our entire plan could be required to change,” Thompson said.
Councilman Tom Fielder asked if they should still display the plans at the upcoming Taste of Belleville and Thompson said it wouldn’t be a good idea since it may change.
At the end of the meeting, DDA members voiced their disappointment about the docks.
“Booville is coming together, but it was disappointing to get the project postponed,” said Mayor Conley. “We’ll wait and see what the DEQ does… The change certainly was disappointing. All of us were on the same page at first.”
In other business at the 24-minute meeting on July 16, the DDA:
• Reviewed a tentative list of activities planned for the month of October from the Booville calendar, which includes Scarecrows on Main, UFOs over Michigan, Costume Pub Crawl, Pumpkin Patch Car Bash, Harvest Fest, Zombie 5K, cemetery tour, art show, psychic medium, downtown trick or treat on Halloween, etc.;
• Approved buying 5,000 promotional magnets for Booville at the low bid of $1,000 (20 cents each) from A Design Line Embroidery of Van Buren Township. Other bidders were Johnston Lithograph of Romulus, $1,350 (27 cents each); 4 Imprint, a web business, at $1,250 (25 cents each); and Custom Specialties USA, a web business, at $2,350 (47 cents each). They will be distributed at events around the city and at businesses and township halls and city hall; and
• Wished chairman Hoops a happy birthday and DDA member Rosemary Loria offered cookies and coffee cake she made to celebrate.
By Rosemary K. Otzman