owners face higher fees
State would charge more for permits along Lake Michigan
By Eric Freedman
Capital News Service
Published in the South Bend Tribune March 6th, 2005
LANSING -- Property owners whose land includes sand dunes
face significantly higher fees for permits to remove trees,
build gazebos, expand driveways and construct homes or
Current fees ranging from $100 to $2,500 are too low
to cover the state's expenses in administering its zoning
permit and inspection program for "critical dune
areas," according to the Department of Environmental
Michigan has about 250,000 acres of sand dunes, 70,000
of them classified as critical formations that the Legislature
characterized as a "unique, irreplaceable and fragile
resource" that provides economic, recreational, ecological,
scenic and other benefits.
Most of the land is along the Lake Michigan shoreline
from the Indiana border north to the Mackinac Bridge.
The rest is in the Upper Peninsula along the northern
coast of Lake Michigan and the southern shore of Lake
"It affects the whole west side of the state,"
said Lynn Egbert, the chief executive officer of the Michigan
Association of Home Builders, which opposes the proposal.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed budget cuts would chop
$100,000 between now and Sept. 30 and another $184,000
from the dunes permit program in the following 12 months.
"If the funding isn't replaced in some manner, the
program will go downhill," said Martin Jannereth,
chief of DEQ's Great Lakes Shoreland Section. "The
fee increase is to replace that. It keeps us even."
Currently, most inspections are handled by three DEQ
employees, one in Cadillac, one in Grand Rapids and one
in Kalamazoo. The department issues 300 to 350 such permits
Fees are charged to both private property owners and
public agencies, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes National
Lakeshore on the Leelanau Peninsula, he said.
Under the proposal, fees would range from $250 to $4,000,
depending on the activity and how the property is used.
For example, it would cost $250 to install a short retaining
wall or other "erosion protection device," to
remove sand or three to nine trees, or to put up a deck
larger than 225 square feet. That fee is now $100.
There would be a $600 price tag for a permit to build
a garage, addition or storage structure, to install longer
retaining walls, to replace a residential septic system
or to expand a road or driveway. Those permits now cost
The fee would rise to $1,300 -- also up from $300 --
to build a single-family home, cottage or guest dwelling
or construct a driveway serving a single-family home.
Fees would be $2,000 to $4,000 for commercial, multi-family
and industrial projects and for projects "that would
damage or destroy features of archeological or historical
Egbert said home builders have had no problems with the
DEQ permit application process but called the fee hike
"a capricious way to get funding when there is an
expected loss of revenue."
He also said his association is concerned about potential
increases in DEQ fees for other types of permits, such
as wetlands permits.
Jannereth said the dunes-related fee change wouldn't
apply to the small number of local governments that issue
such permits under their own zoning authority. They include
Bridgman in Berrien County, two townships on Beaver Island
in Lake Michigan, Pere Marquette Township in Mason County
and two townships in Emmet County.
DEQ's Land and Water Management Division will take public
comments until March 11. DEQ Director Steven Chester will
make the final decision.