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Potential state highway expansion spawns home demolition concerns

Posted at 12:32 AM, Feb 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-12 05:59:47-05

ZEELAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Homeowners in Ottawa County expressed concerns over the fates of their homes and properties, in light of a possible expansion to M-231. According to Zeeland Township officials, the project would look to extend M-231, starting at M-45 towards Holland and Zeeland. Eventually, it would connect the state highway to I-196.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has not approved the expansion or sought funding. Zeeland Township officials say MDOT officials, however, approached them about 'securing' parcels that would eventually be in the route of the new expansion.

"We knew this project would happen so that's where the planning comes into play," said Paul Sachs, Director of Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement. "The effort needs to be made to protect this corridor from continued development."

Homeowners received a letter two weeks ago about possible zoning changes, if their property has been identified as one that may be impacted. Some have learned MDOT may try to acquire their land in the future for the possible construction project.

"It's just kind of a strange feeling when you don't have any guarantee that your home is going to be here in 8 years," said Dana Staat, who lives near the possible route.

At Tuesday's planning commission, a new ordinance was proposed, which would restrict possible new development in the areas that could one day be constructed as part of the expansion project.

"That is definitely part of the concern is that when you own a property, you feel that you have the freedom to improve it or build a barn or to build a pool or something like that," said Staat. "To be told that you don't have that freedom anymore is definitely something that we are not used to in the United States."

In Staat's immediate neighborhood, the possible route as presented by the township would impact at least 10 of her neighbors. More than 100 homeowners came out to the township meeting with hopes to learn more answers or express concerns.

"You're taking our house and you're putting it in economic purgatory for an undetermined amount of time with no certainty that it ever will be purchased," said Matt Ehinger, one of about 100 who came out.

The ordinance is still in discussion stages. The full board meets next Tuesday.