Harbor Shores can’t wait; work in park to start soon
Developers won’t let lawsuit delay their goal of opening Nicklaus golf course next summer
By KEVIN ALLEN H-P 9/4/08
excerpts from article:
Harbor Shores developers announced Wednesday they cannot afford to wait any longer to begin work in Jean Klock Park if they are going to meet their goal of opening a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course next summer.
...they are filing to intervene in a federal lawsuit brought by seven Benton Harbor-area residents against the city, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and National Park Service for allegedly violating environmental regulations in the process of approving Harbor Shores’ plan to build three golf holes in Benton Harbor’s only park on Lake Michigan.
...construction to begin in Jean Klock Park in the next week to 10 days.
Construction is under way on the other 15 holes of the golf course outside the park.
Grass for the golf course needs to be seeded before the fall frost date, which is usually in mid-October, if the course is going to be ready by next summer, developers said.
Harbor Shores would have to return the park to its former condition if it loses the lawsuit after construction has begun. [we know this to be impossible]
The development stretches across 530 acres in Benton Harbor, Benton Township and St. Joseph. The centerpiece is the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, which is expected to attract more than $400 million in total development, including hotels, marinas and hundreds of houses.
If the motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit is granted by the court, it will allow Harbor Shores developers to tell the court their side of the story.
Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney representing the plaintiffs, said Harbor Shores’ motion does not change the case much.
“I feel that Harbor Shores will be more than adequately represented because they are paying for 100 percent of Benton Harbor’s legal expenses,” he said.
The Benton Harbor City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to hire the law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. Attorneys from the firm’s Kalamazoo office represented the city in the civil case.
Harbor Shores hired Washington, D.C., law firm Bracewell and Giuliani to represent them. Developers will also retain the services of Dickinson Wright, which represented them in the civil case.
Lodge added that it seems strange that Harbor Shores is spending so much money defending their position if they believe the lawsuit has no merit.
Lodge rebutted the characterization that opposition to Harbor Shores has come from a small minority.
He said more people would stand up to oppose the conversion of Jean Klock Park into a golf course, but they are afraid of being demonized by Harbor Shores supporters. “There are a lot of people who are intimidated into silence in these types of controversies,” Lodge said.
He said the golf course will permanently damage the park’s sand dunes, but that impact has not been fully disclosed to the public.
He said the Benton Harbor area “could have two jewels on Lake Michigan” if the course were built next to, rather than in, Jean Klock Park.
“The public needs to understand they have been misled at many different steps during the way,” Lodge said.
...Harbor Shores has had to divert funds from community benefits to pay court costs and legal fees for the two lawsuits. [that community wouldn't be Benton Harbor now would it?]