This fence sits off Harper, offering a vision of a possible future access point that could run into the Sheffield subdivision.

This fence sits off Harper, offering a vision of a possible future access point that could run into the Sheffield subdivision.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec


Residents concerned about possible spillway property sale

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 27, 2018

 A view from Sheffield Street facing west toward Harper Avenue in Clinton Township. Possible property development here has been discussed at the county level.

A view from Sheffield Street facing west toward Harper Avenue in Clinton Township. Possible property development here has been discussed at the county level.

Photos by Nick Mordowanec

 A gazebo is located on Wellington Crescent, where one Clinton Township resident said weeds and grass often grow 3 feet high during nonwinter seasons.

A gazebo is located on Wellington Crescent, where one Clinton Township resident said weeds and grass often grow 3 feet high during nonwinter seasons.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — A group of Clinton Township residents are voicing their concerns regarding a potential property sale, near the Clinton River Spillway.

The Macomb County Drainage District has owned the spillway property since Nov. 19, 1952. Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide flood control for Clinton Township, Harrison Township and Mount Clemens, the 2 1/2 mile long, 80-foot wide man-made channel runs in the southeastern direction, from approximately Gratiot Avenue and emptying into Lake St. Clair, near Metropolitan Parkway.

In 2011, former Macomb County Public Works Department Commissioner Anthony Marrocco — on behalf of the Clinton River Spillway Inter-County Drain Drainage Board — received a planning and habitat improvement design grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The estimated $11 million-13 million investment in habitat restoration, both aquatic and terrestrial, lends itself to water quality improvement, invasive species control, upgraded access for recreation, and flood conveyance improvements within drainage district property.

Habitat restoration provides aid in areas like diverse fish spawning, rearing and refuge habitats for a variety of warm and cold-water species. Approximately 45 species of fish call Lake St. Clair home, including the emerald shiner, largemouth bass and brook silverside.

The Clinton River Spillway Inter-County Drain Drainage Board is currently comprised of Macomb County Public Works Department Commissioner Candice Miller; Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development Water Resources Program Manager Michael Gregg; Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash; Lapeer County Drain Commissioner Joe Suma; and St. Clair County Drain Commissioner Robert Wiley.

Property surrounding the spillway, in the area east of Harper Avenue and Wellington Crescent, was discussed at drainage board meetings in recent months. 

According to minutes from the Oct. 25, 2017 meeting, Tamara Keskeny — real property manager within Macomb County Public Works — stated that a survey had been completed on two parcels of property. One parcel involved a sellable portion that could be divided into approximately 13 or 14 lots, while the other parcel would be kept for spillway easement. The lots would meet Clinton Township’s zoning ordinance, she added.

Keskeny said in November that approximately 12 or 13 homes could be built on the property. Miller recently stated that the board is only considering selling the six acres of land that is zoned residential.

Miller said the board began discussing what to do with the land, if anything, for two reasons: It currently must use a portion of property taxes collected to pay for mowing the parcel at a cost of several thousand dollars per year; and authorities from St. Clair County questioned spending money on a parcel of land that their residents, and many others, are unable to use.

She said several ideas have been brainstormed by residents, including the possibility of obtaining state funding to turn the area into a state park. That would, however, do nothing more than attract more traffic on the street, including traffic of the recreational vehicle nature. Another suggestion involved the Neighborhood Association buying the land themselves.

The parcel has been appraised at $500,000, Miller said.

“I don’t know what will happen at all, if anything,” she said. “I have a total open mind, and I’m not advocating anything.”

A handful of residents who live in the vicinity expressed their opposition to future property construction at the Nov. 29 drainage board meeting.

One of the residents, Dana Dugger, has lived on nearby Suburban Street since 1981. He claimed that the spillway board’s main intention is to get out of paying maintenance costs and is “trying to divest themselves from anything intrinsic in relation to the operation of the drain” — essentially what Miller confirmed.

Dugger, who clarified he had no personal axe to grind, said that throughout the years the county has had a penchant for letting grass and weeds grow out of control. He said the property next to Wellington Crescent grew up to 3 feet tall last year, even having photos on his phone for posterity due to the “hack job” maintenance that occurred.

He wants the board to “retain and maintain” the property in question, rather than impede the restoration of wildlife and the natural habitat to build and sell future homes.

“It seems that no matter the government entity, they’re not really good at communicating what they’re doing or why they want to do it,” Dugger said.

Another resident at that meeting, Terrence Brown, lives directly across the street from the Sheffield property. He said the area is pristine in the winter season, but warned that if homes are built, fertilizer runoff will invade the spillway and negatively impact the restoration work that was done in the first place.

Dugger said he was told by Clinton Township officials that the southern end of Sheffield — which is currently a dead end — would be theoretically opened as an access point if the property sale was approved. 

Tom Lediet has lived on Sheffield for 12 years and has palpable concerns. He warns of the potential runoff and pollution. He is wary of higher taxes invoked due to the sewage system. And for a subdivision that is quite inaudible and contains no street lights and limited stop signs, he believes more development will lead to more traffic and, in essence, more commotion.

“That’s not why I bought (my house),” he said. “It’s quiet back here. … They found a road that would be all condos, down to the lake. They say, ‘We won’t do that,’ but once they get their foot in the door…”

Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, who is also chairperson of the township’s conservation committee, said the potential sale of the property does revolve around the maintenance costs.

“This is something that’s been in Clinton Township as an open space for quite a while,” Gieleghem said. “Open space is a huge priority for us.”

An access point has been pondered in preliminary blueprints, including reimagining the property along the spillway while still preserving that open space that leads toward the lake.

He recently spoke with Miller, requesting that the discussed property not be sold while a plan is developed to protect the area and create more recreational opportunities — such as the fishing pier that stands at the corner of Harper and Wellington Crescent. He wants a “stronger commitment” from local and state entities, including public works, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

He said he is hopeful and appreciated Miller’s responsiveness to his concerns.

“We have this wonderful resource, Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River,” he said. “All three branches of the Clinton River converge around Clinton Township. … But the spillway is sort of another area that is unique because it has direct access to Lake St. Clair.

“The big hurdle for creating a blue water economy, (is) everything along Lake St. Clair is privately owned. There’s not enough public access. This is a prime piece of property that has that access.”

On Nov. 29, Miller made a motion to take no further action on the sale of the property until the March 28 meeting. The motion was unanimously approved.

Staff Writer Julie Snyder contributed to this story.