Dunaskiss? MDEQ public hearing gets heated

A June 6 public hearing involving the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality turned ugly at Orion Township Hall, resulting in two MDEQ workers storming out and ending the meeting prematurely.
The two MDEQ representatives, from the Land and Water Management Division, were on hand to hear comments from residents, on and around Lake Orion, about an application for a marina permit submitted by former state senator and Lake Orion resident Mat Dunaskiss.
The Review reported last August that some residents on the lake were suspicious that Dunaskiss was already attempting to operate an illegal marina, off of island property he owns on Lake Orion, known as Pine Island.
A home formerly stood on the island, but burned down in 2003.
At that time, the MDEQ sent Dunaskiss a letter to inform him a permit was required, and to cease all unauthorized marina activity.
Dunaskiss is now seeking after-the-fact approval to operate a private marina at 460 Cushing, with four existing and one proposed dock. The marina would provide dockage for 10 watercraft, including provisions for a jet-ski lift and additional dockage.
During ‘question time? at the end of the June 6 MDEQ public hearing, one resident asked MDEQ representatives Justin Smith and Andy Hartz to provide the name of their supervisor.
The resident particularly cited Hartz’s ‘arrogance? as her reason for wanting to contact his supervisor, and a short argument ensued between the two.
‘I’m not going to sit here and be called an idiot,? Hartz said, threatening to end the meeting if such comments from the audience continued.
A few seconds later, he was gone.
Orion Township Clerk Jill Bastian and Supervisor Jerry Dywasuk were both surprised by how the meeting was handled.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it,? Dywasuk said. ‘The meeting got out of hand. It’s obviously an emotional issue.?
‘This project is about no growth,? Dunaskiss said at the hearing. ‘No new homes will be added. No aggressive shoreline projects will take place.?
Dunaskiss said the marina is just helping to offset property taxes, and is a ‘trade-off? that will allow him to keep other land he owns on the lake undeveloped.
‘In my heart, I think I’m doing the right thing,? he said, claiming the docks will add minimal impact, whereas selling the property off could pave the way for a larger development.
There are seven building sites on Pine Island and it’s neighboring land. The Dunaskiss? family also owns 12 additional acres of lakefront property.
‘Instead of five homes (and probably seven), it’s five docks,? he said.
Residents at the hearing said that if Dunaskiss is facing such a financial hardship and still wants the land to remain undeveloped, he could sell the property to a number of entities that aren’t interested in developing the land.
Many said they were perplexed by the fact that no action against him has been taken to date.
‘The marina is illegal,? said lakefront resident Roger Ebejer. ‘It’s been run since the beginning of last year.?
Ebejer noted that the MDEQ ruling is moot, because the township zoning simply won’t allow for a marina to operate on that land.
‘It’s zoned Residential 3,? he said. ‘It’s up to the township to strictly enforce that ordinance. Really, the focus needs to be on the zoning ordinance.?
Dywasuk said the township has already taken a few steps in that fashion, first issuing a verbal warning, then holding multiple meetings with Dunaskiss, and finally issuing a written warning.
‘Our next step is to issue a written violation,? Dywasuk said.
‘The people in the area don’t think it’s appropriate for the zoning, and we don’t either,? he later added. ‘If it fits the zoning, we don’t have a problem. But it doesn’t fit.?
Dunaskiss hoped to contact township officials in the coming week, and is currently not charging for dock space.
‘I listened very carefully to the concerns,? he said. ‘We want to be the good neighbors. If you put up a gate, then only the people that are supposed to be there are there.?
Dunaskiss added that it’s his belief that the past problems have stemmed from people that weren’t supposed to be on the island in the first place.
He said he thought most of the neighbors? issues were the result of confusion over with what he was actually proposing.
‘As soon as you use the word ‘marina,? you have everything that’s associated with the word,? he said. ‘Once you’ve established a thought or perspective in your mind, it’s hard to be objective.?
Ebejer said that taking Dunaskiss? ‘word? on issues like putting up a gate or only putting up five docks is not something that he or any of the other neighbors are going to be taken in by.
‘There’s more than a number of instances where he hasn’t been truthful,? Ebejer said. ‘He’s not a trustworthy and honest person.?
Ebejer wasn’t surprised by the reaction of residents at the MDEQ hearing.
‘I expected that outcome to be about what it was,? he said, noting that it’s ‘idiotic? to continue with a marina discussion, because of the illegal land use.
Justin Smith, the primary MDEQ worker on the case, said they would accept written comments submitted within 10 days of the hearing.
Lake Orion Lake Association President Ed Roberts offered the MDEQ 423 petitions, signed at the time of the hearing.
‘The Lake Association is requesting that the MDEQ deny this permit,? he said.
‘It’s a dangerous situation out there, and we don’t need to make it any worse,? Roberts said. ‘There are already too many boats on the lake.?
Dywasuk said the township is planning a response for the MDEQ.
‘It makes the job more difficult for us, if (Dunaskiss) has the MDEQ permit,? he said.
Dywasuk was a little disheartened by the fact that Dunaskiss didn’t come to the township before applying for the marina permit through the MDEQ.
At the hearing, Dywasuk requested that the MDEQ postpone their decision, until the township has resolved their end of the matter.
‘I was under the impression that Mr. Dunaskiss was going to work with the township,? Dywasuk said. ‘But I have gotten no response.
‘If (Dunaskiss) was really interested, he’d have been back here by now,? said Dywasuk. ‘It doesn’t matter who owns the property, we want to treat this consistently.?
Orion Township Zoning and Planning Administrator Beth McGuire said the township still needs to gather evidence for their end of the issue.
‘You have to prove it’s a running business, and not just boats being parked there,? she said.
Dywasuk added that the MDEQ has the right to go ahead with their portion of the issue, as they see fit.
‘We don’t have any authority over the lake, the MDEQ strictly handles that,? he said.
Meanwhile, Smith said the deadline for a MDEQ decision is Sept. 25. It was incorrectly reported as Aug. 25 at the hearing, though Smith said a decision should be made by August.
Smith also said anyone interested in getting a last-minute comment to the MDEQ regarding the issue (the deadline is June 16) should e-mail him at smithjm@michigan.gov
He requested that written responses include the file number (06-63-0089-P), so that they get to the right place.