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Muskegon city commissioners vote 'no' on public access amendment

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
Sunrise on the Muskegon Lake channel, June 2013.

Following a lawsuit that challenged the sale of public land on Muskegon Lake to a private developer for $2, the Muskegon Board of City Commissioners has rejected an amendment that would have restored public access

In 2021, the City Commission approved the sale of a street that accesses a public peninsula on Muskegon Lake. City Hall sold that to local developer and Parkland Properties owner, Jon Rooks.

Next door, the West Michigan Dock and Market, took issue with the sale, and filed a lawsuit in August of 2022--claiming officials had violated the city’s ordinance by not holding a public hearing on the matter first.

A judge agreed last week and refused to toss the lawsuit despite the City’s request to do so.

City Hall then added an amendment to Tuesday night’s agenda that would restore public access to the peninsula temporarily, however, commissioners almost unanimously voted against it, many commissioners arguing that the amendment needed to guarantee public access indefinitely.

City Commissioner Rebecca St. Clair:

“There is so much private development on Muskegon Lake and so little public access, that we need to protect what the community has.”

Many commissioners said they wrestled with the sale of the land in the first place as the deal had been made prior to being elected the board.

At the time of the sale, the city was under the leadership of former City Manager Frank Peterson and former Mayor Steve Gawron.

Current Mayor Ken Johnson, the single ‘yes’ vote Tuesday, was a city commissioner at the time.