Public Hearing for West End Project Needs to be Heard Loud and Clear

For the second year in a row, a public hearing was conducted at a March Ludington City Council meeting for input on the West End Project, and for the second year in a row, four citizens got up and defied the official's wishes by speaking out against it. 

In previous years, the only positive reviews of the project, outside certain city officials who were behind hiring the Grand Rapids firm in designing this, were two disability advocates from out of town who were primarily promoting their own seasonal walkway on the north part of Stearn's Park.  This has happened even with positive oriented press releases about the 'improvements' from the city.  Phase one of this project is in the blue section of the map below:

At the end of the meeting, no councilor spoke ill or well of the proposed grant application, or about the fact that the city would need $216,000 of its own coming from fund-raising projects, since it has made no commitment of its own funds this time.  That won't be easy to do in the time frame of this grant without some serious money-moving.  As a benchmark, the Relay for Life for Mason County works for several months each year in fund-raising activities throughout the community and generally raises $80,000 for a very worthy cause.  Raising over $200,000 for unpopular alterations of a treasured park will not happen, and that was made clear at this meeting.

Four people spoke at the meeting regarding phase one of this project; all were vehemently against it, their comments are printed below the video with annotations of when they made their comments.  Please, feel free to add your own public comment below, for or against the project.

March 9, 2015 Ludington City Council from Mason County District Library on Vimeo.

Deb Del Zoppo, who owns property in Ludington and Custer, weighed in at 2:45 into the video "...this morning, and this is a little different, I have been planning on coming by for a couple of weeks now, and its not how I was going to start this, but, this morning, at about 7:30 I drove through the beach to enjoy the moon, and, of course, due to the time change, it was still quite dark out.  And I realized there were some lights out off the harbor. 

I imagine it was a tug or barge trying to make its way in.  So I drifted to the end of Stearn's Drive and went around the corner of the playground, headed to the west, and pulled up to the far end of West Ludington Avenue and parked and watched for as long as I had time-- it wasn't a whole lot of time-- and then I turned around and pulled out and I just suddenly chuckled to myself because it occurred to me that if the proposed change to the far end of the west end of Ludington Avenue goes through, I wouldn't have bee able to do what I just did this morning. 

There are thirty spots, thirty marked spots, down in that end of Ludington Avenue, and I see on that map truly only nine new truly proposed parking spots and those would be close to the playground, which is fine, they're dieting those spots, I think right now we fit 3, 4 RVs in there, so that would be a little bit different configuration.

In talking to some people today about this, one of my friends pointed out that when people come to Ludington, our truly greatest gift, our best natural resources is the beach and then the harbor area and Stearn's Drive is unparalleled.  People don't come to Ludington, to the beach, to see a promenade, or a fancy tiled area, or additional, I don't know what the circular thing is on either end-- but people come to enjoy the lake, to enjoy the harbor, and I am opposed to those changes, and I am even in more support of making more parking available to people down there.  Thank you."

After Deb stepped down, another got up and commented on the unique historical attraction of the area as it stands and the special place it holds in the hearts of many, including his parents

At 5:45 in Don Fallis, who lives within sight of the project, spoke out:  "I agree with this young lady (pointing at Del Zoppo), the uniqueness of what we have at the west end of Ludington Avenue is unparalleled.  It's the one place that my father and mother, 94 and 93 years old, can still drive to the lake.  It's the place where this last week, if it was clear enough to see anything, we could be coming down Ludington Avenue and see ice as far as they could see.  It's a unique place. 

For 141 years of the history of Ludington, we've had this opportunity, and its Wrong to change that now.  I thin that we should continue to do nothing.  To put another building, that is going to require more work, more cleaning of sand.  The best thing we could do with that is continue to let that be nature's way of people enjoying the lake in Ludington Michigan.  Thank you."

When Don speaks, I'm always enthused because his wife tends to follow his lead and gives a knockout performance in oration.  More than anyone else who makes public comment, she seems to hit responsive chords of logic and emotion when she respectfully addresses the council:


At 7:05 in, Jan Fallis, who lives within sight of Don Fallis, emoted:  "Twenty-two years ago, on our 27th wedding anniversary, we got the great privilege of driving into this town for the first time.  The first thing I saw was the petunias... awesome, never seen that before back in central Indiana, you see cornfields.  And wheat fields, but you don't see flowers planted along the street, what a beautiful welcome that was.  And before we ever reached what I didn't know was Washington Avenue, you could see the water. 

We change that down there, and you take that away.  You've got a glorious gold mine here.  Don't destroy it by putting up buildings and pavements that require tax dollars for upkeep.  You know, just changing that-- and I know I said building but I didn't mean building-- whatever it is, leave it open.  I've had the privilege of watching a grandfather, which is Don, take a two and a half year old little boy, his grandson, on an excursion up those hills in the dunes, and hearing the joys, and all you had to do was be right there in the city, you didn't have to go very far. 

And for those who don't have the privilege of going to the state park, for whatever the reason, they've got it within the city limits of your beautiful city.  My beautiful city now.  I would encourage you all to take another look at the beauty, the natural beauty, that is already there.  Thank you."

I weighed in at 16:20, once the public hearing for that project was announced, and was the last to talk of it, until the city manager weighed in at the end at around 1:21:45 into that long video.  He addressed the 'buildings' issue, without commenting that the city has planned on using the end area for setting up pavilions/tents serving indefinite purposes for indefinite amounts of time.  He also tried to soothe the loss of parking and the inability to get close to the waterfront in a vehicle that several of the first speakers sounded off on.  For some reason, however, he failed to address the big issues I brought to the table, because he knows its illegal, costly as sin, and would be very unpopular if the full knowledge of what they plan on doing was voiced. 

I was very emotionally behind this issue, as I have always been.  The south side of Stearn's Park is very special to me, and the changes, in my opinion, will take away its special character, what my fellow citizens classified as uniqueness.  I won't let outsider designers and other idiots come in and take that away without a fight.

"I thank the three people who spoke out earlier. 

The West End Project has been around for eleven years.  It has been described as a seven or eight phase project that was estimated to cost millions of dollars back in 2004.  Drawn up by consultants who have not lived in the area, perhaps never even visited the area, the City has decided to keep the citizens in the dark about the majority of this multiphase project.  I was told by the City Manager I would need to spend over sixty dollars just to look at some of the details of the full project.  There still is a significant majority of people living in this city that could not tell you any details of this project and the details of the last four or five phases, details developed with public funds, remain unreleased. 

It can only be inferred that the City planners have no confidence in getting public support behind any part of this project.  Witness last year's public hearing, four long term citizens spoke out about phase one of this project, all offering valid reasons regarding parking, the expense, the durability, the legality, the traffic situation, and concerns that the project would not improve the area, but degrade it.  Councilor Wanda Marrison offered her own concerns, which were well-founded, and shortly thereafter resigned her position after she and the rest of this council voted to apply despite the public's concerns.

Last year, John Shay told us that the city's portion of these phases would be paid for by selling paver stones and other fund-raising projects.  This year he proposes basically the same, while increasing the amount of cash the citizens of Ludington will have to raise, doubling the amount to $216,000.  There is no money budgeted for this in next year's budget, so where will that local match come from if this is somehow approved by the DNR when we have emergent problems with our water systems that need immediate attention?

So absent of any meaningful public support, this city leaders are set to stubbornly continue asking the state to provide money in order to level a scenic sand dune, remove a lot of critical parking spaces, and put a bunch of rocks and seawalls on what happens to be an often used, beautiful sandy beach-- and then has the audacity to call it an improvement to what is already there.

The important point that our current leadership wishes to ignore is that our city charter was established to protect and preserve our parks from such interference by our leaders whose objectives may differ from the objectives of the people.  Section 14.3 says of that charter says:  "The Council shall not... divert to other public use any public park grounds without first securing the approval of a majority of the electors of the City voting thereon in any election."

You are proposing to use millions of dollars of the public money, you are proposing to significantly alter Stearn's Park, and yet, you have not taken the minor effort it would take to inform and get the electors to decide whether they want this cost and alteration to take place by voting yes or no in any one of the November elections that have taken place in each of the eleven years this plan has been in existence.

 Lastly, our city has millions of dollars of repairs for the water treatment plant that we are going to go into debt to pay for and in hyperinflationary manner, increase our water and sewer rates.  Our city will have millions of dollars to repair our wastewater treatment plant which hasn't had a discharge permit for four years.  The majority of our sewer systems are over 100 years old and of insufficient width and needed replacement years ago.  Do we really want to spend money on this arbitrary and capricious project with those elephants in the room?  Thank you."

The Ludington City Council did not vote on whether to send the application just yet, they will do so next meeting on March 23.  Let them know where you stand on the issue before then, and at the meeting in the public comment section.

Views: 331

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I am very proud you stood up against this X, as so many many more who haven't come to meetings to voice the same, are all in agreement. What you said about the public voting on this, well, I did NOT hear Shay nor any city councilor agree with that view. When you factor in the project being talked about and on the drawing boards for over 11 years, you would think that something positive was in the works for the public. To the CONTRARY, it just is NOT! And, I don't see anyone proposing a vote by the public on it either. WONDER WHY? I think some of the improvements may work, such as the Loomis St. ramp area. There is a lot of land sitting idle south of the public restrooms near the USCG. That could be good parking for over-congestion of boats with trailers into the future.Some of the landscaping also looks pretty good. But, the walkway from the north breakwall to Lud. Ave., the sand dune destruction, and the bleachers and promenades for summer events, those aren't a good idea to me at all. I truly believe that the ONLY way the COL is going to back-off this project, is to get a petition circulating against the plans, at least the northerly portions. If that isn't done, we will shortly see the wrecking crews come on site, and Ludington's west end will be forever changed and ruined. The COL claims they want input on this project, and all I see is wanting a positive feedback to it. Anything negative is ignored. And btw, how many people or institutions have come out publicly in favor or it? I haven't seen ANY to date, have you?

I have to share any 'pride pie' with the other three souls that confronted the city council, who offered their own personal and logistical reasons for not wanting the project done.  One thing I keep asking for, but never receive, is a full reckoning of these seven or eight phases and why haven't they been brought forth for public scrutiny as for content, price and the 'why' of why we need them. 

At the next meeting, the councilors will likely send along the application without explaining why this lighted concrete walkway is worth $500,000, and why we wouldn't be better served by leaving it as it is, as Don Fallis pleaded for them to do. 

Bravo X. Well said. Below are some photos I took several years ago of the area that would be changed. All were taken from a spot that would be radically altered or removed to accommodate the walkway. It's hard to understand why anyone would want to alter this beautiful scenery.

Thanks for those photos, I would be appreciative of you taking more this year to illustrate the subtle beauty of this section of Stearn's Park.  I can't even fathom why the City wants to add lights to this walkway, when they supposedly close the park at dusk.  Oh yeah, they plan to have the rectangular area serve as a regularly present beer tent.

I think Willy and/or others would be doing the entire public a service by presenting these pictures in a power point illustration to the city council. Maybe it will remind them of what they intend to alter and ruin forever for the locals. I know those that aren't born and raised in Ludington, like Shay, aren't really going to care either way. But to those that are, and those implants that have come to love this portion of our local beach, it could ring a bell of sanity, if one still exists with them. Thanks for caring, and sharing Willy.

Thanks Aquaman. I could be wrong but I think that all of the Council members who first proposed this walkway have exited the scene, including Mayor Henderson. So that leaves only one of the originals left that was around when this plan was brought forward. That person is Shay. I bet this is his idea and he's the one keeping this terrible idea alive. Why else would this still be considered?

Councilor Holman would have been in her rookie year in 2004, so I doubt whether she had much input, and so City Manager Shay and his assistant Jackie Steckel are the only ones that have been there that long in the halls of power of Ludington.  Chief Barnett may have also had some influence, but as Willy notes, everyone including the other current community development director, clerk, and treasurer, weren't around back then. 

Likewise, I don't think that John Shay will be allowed to submit such an application without covering that $216,000 with more than promises of charity fundraisers if it's accepted by the DNR.


© 2024   Created by XLFD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service