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Great Lakes Article:

Macomb toughens stand on wetlands
County prosecutor set to fight building plan ALEXA CAPELOTO
Posted 10/09/2002

Macomb County, once considered the metro area's "dullest of stars" in terms of protecting valuable wetlands, is about to notch up its vigilance.

County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga is expected to announce legal action today against development on a swath of forested wetlands in Chesterfield Township.

Residents in that area have battled for months to save the 110-acre spread, which sits on four parcels of undeveloped land between the Salt River and Lake St. Clair. A group of developers has obtained permits for a subdivision on one parcel and is hoping to build condos on another.

Marlinga, who is running for Congress, is to announce the details of the legal action at a news conference today in Chesterfield Township.

"When we received information about the possible destruction of more than a hundred acres of wetlands, we were compelled to look into the allegations," Marlinga said. "I'm looking forward to sharing the details of the lawsuit on Monday."

Gary Gendernalik, an attorney for developers Paul Esposito and Sergio Gesuale, said he would not comment on the lawsuit without more details. He said Esposito, Gesuale and their partners have obtained permits for the subdivision, called Secluded Woods, and are following government procedure on the condo plan.

The lawsuit is just one of several steps county leaders are taking to guard dwindling wetland acreage.

After Marlinga's announcement, he is expected to host a seminar that will lead local communities through the process of drafting their own wetland protection ordinances.

Neither Macomb County nor any of its cities or townships have protective ordinances, though Harrison Township is taking steps to adopt one. By comparison, 17 Oakland County communities have ordinances.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will regulate wetland acreage if it meets guidelines related to size or proximity to waterways, but both agencies contend that local municipalities should take some authority.

"The state used to say that Oakland County was the brightest star in Michigan for wetlands protection, and Macomb is kind of the dullest of stars," said Peggy Johnson, former director of the Clinton River Watershed Council, who helped draft the Oakland Township ordinance.

In addition to Marlinga's efforts, the Macomb County Water Quality Board is working on a county-wide ordinance. Antrim County was the first in Michigan to pass such an ordinance last year, requiring developers to obtain a county permit when working in wetland areas.

"I'm not against building houses, because people need to live, but leave the wetlands," said Doug Martz, head of the Macomb County water board.

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