BY BRENDA DOMINICK
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Independence Township Board voted 6-1 to approve second reading and adoption of its revised Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Code for Wetlands and Watercourses, June 19, over the objection of a few residents.
Fred Daris, a Citizens Committee volunteer, said the proposed ordinance will fail because nobody will enforce it. He also said he requested to speak with board members, but said they declined meeting with him.
Norm Froeschke agreed.
“One of your planning commission members stated at the meeting, ‘they don’t need a DEQ permit,'” as he looked to Trustee Ron Ritchie, who is also on the Townsip Planning Commission.
Ritchie responded, “It wasn’t in that context.”
“We’re not going to go back and forth. We’re not answering questions,” said Treasurer Paul Brown. “It’s public comment, you can do it. We’re not going to repsond to your questions.”
“That’s exactly the problem with public comment,” Froeschke said. “There can’t be a two way communication.”
Robert Namowicz of Independence Township said the ordinance is too cumbersome.
“It’s really hard for regular non-bureaucratic folks to understand all of the purposes of this,” Namowicz said. “We’ve not seen a lot of enforcement of existing township ordinances.”
Trustee Jose Aliaga, who voted against the amendment, said he was concerned about the residents’ questions.
“The question someone asked here is if DEQ will enforce watercourse issues,” Aliaga said.
Trustee Andrea Schroeder agreed, but said comments she received about the DEQ from lake residents have been positive.
“Jose, I think you’re right, when somebody contacts us, we should be listening,” Schroeder said. “I would like to thank both the people that spoke here today, and those that have reached out to me privately that wanted to meet and give me their perspective, and not just on the lake these gentlemen are on, but on the other lakes.”
The trustee said she offered to meet with Daris.
“I can’t speak for the rest of the board but I will say that I do have in an email that I did offer to meet and in fact I gave specific times when I would be available and then never heard back,” Schroeder said. “So, the idea of painting us with a wide brush and saying that we refused to meet I don’t think is fair, at least on my personal level.”
Township Supervisor Pat Kittle said the DEQ responds to every call, whether it be an environmental, safety, or navigation issue, in the township.
“I, like everybody else in this room, am concerned with safety,” Kittle said.
Trustee Rachel Loughrin, who has experience in land development and municipal processes, said she believes in small government and the board should expect the DEQ will do their job correctly.
“I know how difficult and frustrating it can be,” Loughrin asid. “I don’t think it’s necessary to duplicate a process or to force the residents of our community to jump through hoops and apply for a permit that they don’t necessarily need to from the township’s perspective.”
The revised ordinance, which dates back to the 1980s, eliminates duplication and provisions already regulated by MDEQ. The changes allow the township to use its limited resources more efficiently, according to officials.
First reading of the ordinance, which applies to permits for temporary, seasonal, and permanent docks, seawalls, beaching, as well as other items pertaining to use of the lakes at the township, was approved on May 15.