Meekhof’s legislation to protect dunes, development signed into law

LANSING — Legislation to help ensure a proper balance exists between environmental protection and economic development within Michigan’s critical dune areas was signed into law Tuesday, said sponsor Sen. Arlan Meekhof.

“Sand dunes are a unique feature of Michigan’s shoreline, and we need to safeguard these natural wonders for future generations to enjoy without hindering economic development,” said Meekhof, R-West Olive. “I sponsored this new law to help ensure that we conserve our state’s natural beauty while allowing for progress.”

Public Act 297 of 2012 (Senate Bill 1130) addresses problems with granting permission for construction of driveways and accessibility areas and establishes a more definite standard for granting variances under local ordinances and special exceptions by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Meekhof said PA 297 was necessary because the current law overregulated many parcels of land to the point that landowners were not allowed to use their own land. This led to several lawsuits against the state, most notably Heaphy v. Department of Environmental Quality, which led to a $1.8 million judgment for a West Olive property owner. Meekhof's new legislation fixes this problem so the state will no longer have to pay out multimillion dollar verdicts to lakeshore property owners.

Collectively, Michigan’s sand dunes represent the largest grouping of fresh water dunes in the world.

“I’m happy to see Governor Rick Snyder sign this important measure,” Meekhof said. “My legislation addresses recent concerns regarding the inability to develop certain projects within critical dune areas. With this new law on the books, we have found a balance between preservation and progress.”

Editor’s note: For a print-quality version of this and other Meekhof photos, click the image or visit and click the Photowire link.