By Scott Sullivan
The Laketown Township Planning Commission is weighing a special use request from a marine contractor some say is running an illegal business without a permit.
The commission Sept. 5 tabled Tucker Marine Construction’s request for 6255 Blue Star Hwy. Applicant Scott Tucker says he plans to buy part of that 17 acre parcel, zoned C-2 Mixed Commercial Residential, from landowner Randy Crum for what he describes as a layout yard with trucking/transport operations.
Tucker’s Facebook page says the business “is here to build docks, build sea walls and complete many more marine related projects you need.” It serves Macatawa, Mich., and nearby areas.
Firm attorney Lance Zoerhoef told planners June 6 the request would include a 60 x 100-foot storage facility to enclose all materials not in storage now and six of 12 trailers used in the business. The other six would be on and off site from April through November and likely stored outside in winter.
Tucker’s updated site plan would include natural screening for rural neighbors north, south and west along Blue Star Highway, his lawyer said.
Neighbors and two commission members claimed Sept. 5 the firm’s actual use would be industrial — which would require not a special use, but rezoning. Citing noise and environmental concerns, they asked for a revised report on the matter addressing comments made that evening.
The commission was scheduled to further discuss the request at its Wednesday, Oct. 3, meeting (too late for this week’s Commercial Record deadline), but would not have a quorum on hand to act.
Neighbor Melissa Raywood, who lives east of and adjacent to the parcel, claimed Tucker started in July 2017 making continual trips to the land hauling semi trailers filled with soil to fill on the west side of the property, where Silver Lake Creek flows through a wetland.
She complained to the township that Tucker was moving dirt with a front-end loader and bulldozer late into the night, producing noise and vibrations that rattled her home’s windows.
Raywood wrote the township in February saying research showed Tucker had been incarcerated for developing on property without pulling proper permits and illegally dumping toxic products without permission.
Records show Tucker, as owner of H&M Demolition in Holland, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in May 2010 for improperly handling asbestos during earlier projects in Toledo, Ohio, and Wyoming, Mich. He was also fined $1,000 and required to serve three years on supervised release after his imprisonment.
Raywood said she learned Tucker had not pulled township permits for his local project either.
Guardian Brewing Co. owner Kim Collins, who is building a brewery at the old Red Barn Theatre site and plans lodging accommodations on 26-plus total acres west of Tucker’s operation, wrote the township July 1 voicing concerns about how his project would impact groundwater.
“There are significant environmental concerns related to such an industry,” said Collins. “Any contamination from hazardous fluids into our drinking water would ruin our business.”
Raywood wrote the commission Aug. 1 that Tucker continues to bring semi truckloads of broken concrete and debris onto the property.
“Given his past practices I am concerned that some of the fill may have toxic contaminants in it,” the neighbor said.
“What will happen to that area of the property if Mr. Tucker is denied his special usage? The damage has already been done. That area is currently an eyesore and not harmonious with the essential character of this neighborhood and surrounding area.”
Raywood again updated planners before their Sept. 5 meeting complaining of noise from machinery constructing a driveway on her neighbor’s land.
Township manager Al Meshkin said, per that night’s meeting minutes, he would need a way to determine when noise is excessive and obnoxious. He asked attorney Ron Bultje if it is possible for him, as zoning administrator, to have discretion to determine the level of excess noise.
Tucker’s attorney, Zoerhof, said screening and hours of operation would be put in place. Tucker told planners the screeching noise Raywood reported Saturday, Aug. 18, at 9 a.m. was a bad bulldozer on the drive and that work is done.
Commissioner Jim Lorence asked whether other noise is the result of marine construction and an instrument now being used there creates a pneumatic pounding noise.
Tucker answered docks will be built there as part of the operation. He said no repair work for other clients’ vehicles will be done there, but repairs will be on company-owned equipment, which will also be fueled on site.
Commission member Linda Howell took issue with the project going forward without prior permit. She voiced concerns with the township’s report as follows:
- All building codes including all water and sewer for a manufacturing environment must be met, including adequate plumbing;
- The special use should include a probationary period, number of lights allowed, detailed drainage plan and recorded agreement with the Allegan County Drain Commission and all inspections must be in place.
Howell further sought to clarify the definition of a layout yard and salvageable materials, when trucks will be on site, whether all vehicles be licensed and operable, how many employees there would be, parking and ingress/egress standards, and that vinyl fencing, not wooden is necessary for the site.
Planner Randy Becksvoort said he felt Tucker’s plan is an industrial use with a request being used instead to try to pass it. He asked about the amount of gravel in the yard and whether the site is ready for construction.
Tucker said 90 percent is gravel, a fair amount of which will leave. Sand will be brought in and grass planted after construction is completed, said the developer.
Becksvoort also voiced concerns about noise, that building codes be adhered to, on site running water and bathrooms be adequate and where wastewater from repair work is going to go. He asked whether a licensed mechanic will be on site.
Tucker said he would do that work.
Howell asked if building docks inside a building should be considered industrial manufacturing in a mixed-use zoning.
Bultje said marine operation is allowed in the district. When Howell said marinas and contractors within a closed building are allowed but there is no entry for marine construction, Bultje said a condition could be that all construction is done inside the structure but was not sure it would meet building codes.
Becksvoort asked if the business is being operated without permits now. Zoerhof said indeed work is going on onsite.
Bultje said the commission
cannot give permission for something that has not been permitted. The township staff has not taken any action to shut down the operation at this time while the planning commission works with the applicant.
Meshkin told The Commercial Record Monday he and Bultje were working on an updated and revised report for the commission’s next meeting Wednesday, Nov. 7.