A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court decision pertaining to the Harbor Shores development in Benton Harbor, apparently putting an end to attempts to derail the project.
In a statement released today, Wendy Dant Chesser, president of the Cornerstone Alliance and a trustee of Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment, referred to the decision by the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati as “a victory for our region.’’
“This decision only confirms what we have claimed from the beginning — that Harbor Shores and its community partners in the project followed all of the federal and state environmental requirements throughout the development process,’’ she said.
The bottom line, she added, is Jean Klock Park, a key point of contention of project opponents who fought the conversion of a portion of the park for the development’s Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, has been improved and nearly 40 acres of decontaminated riverfront property has been added to the park as part of an agreement with the city of Benton Harbor.
Also, she said, Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment has relieved Benton Harbor of a financial burden by maintaining the park, at a cost in excess of $120,000 a year, and by providing more than $2 million in park improvements.
Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment President D. Jeffrey Noel pointed out as well that golf course revenue hasn’t been tapped for development costs.
“The fact is, Harbor Shores not only maintains Jean Klock Park, but any proceeds from the golf operations after payments to the city for the lease are re-gifted to the community,’’ he said.
A year ago, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed in Grand Rapids a lawsuit filed by proponents of Jean Klock park that attempted to block conversion of some of the parkland for the golf course. In his decision, Bell ruled that agencies used proper oversight in dealing with contamination issues affecting some 38 acres of riverfront property that were exchanged for roughly 22 acres of parkland.
In another ruling a year ago regarding the Harbor Shores development, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a Berrien County Circuit Court decision that privatizing a portion of the park did not violate conditions of the Klock family’s deeding of park property to Benton Harbor.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: