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City leaders reject agreement to temporarily restore access to Muskegon Lake boardwalk

All the commissioners talked about wanting to preserve public access to Muskegon Lake via the boardwalk, but thought the agreement didn't do enough to cement it.

MUSKEGON, Mich — Muskegon City Commissioners rejected an amendment that would temporarily restore public access to a boardwalk on Muskegon Lake.

In 2021, the city sold the public property near Shoreline Inn and Terrace Point Marina for just $1 to developer Jon Rooks, who wants to build a boat storage facility.

During deliberations at their public meeting tonight, all of the commissioners talked about wanting to preserve public access to Muskegon Lake via that boardwalk. However, some didn't think the agreement did enough to cement access.

The vote for the amendment to preserve public access failed the city commission's vote, with only Mayor Ken Johnson voting yes. 

"I am comfortable with it knowing that our waterfront walkway peninsula is going to remain accessible and that is what I think has the greatest value of all of this property," Johnson said.

In August of last year, President of West Michigan Dock & Market Max Mckee filed a lawsuit saying the transfer should never have been allowed because the development agreement in question effectively reversed a permanent easement intended to preserve the land as a public access point.

McKee spoke with 13 On Your Side during Monday's meeting. Although he wants to see public access maintained on the property, he was against the city's amendment.

"A very tricky agreement that would not have enshrined permanent public access that would have been guaranteed," McKee said.

Rooks, the developer, phoned into the commission meeting saying they would try to make public access better.

"This is exactly we were thinking. We could put back all of the public access that was there and even make better public access and put it on public record like we are now," he said.

City Commissioner Michael Ramsey says he voted no because he wants to see something more concrete when it comes to public access to the Muskegon Lake.

"I want to make sure that as we move forward with something that is meant to serve our entire community, that it's a little more concrete and concise," Ramsey said. 

"It's not to say that we're not trying to be good business partners or good neighbors to all of the good work, or respectful to the work that has already been done. It's about making sure that as we move forward, it's with the right foot at all times, or atleast the right foot to the best of our abilities."

The Muskegon City Manager says, as for next steps, they're going to respond to the filing of the lawsuit. 

There was a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in late 2022. A judge denied that dismissal last week.


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