Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

September 1, 2012

Another View: Time for discussion about property

Everyone has an opinion, it seems, about what to do with the former Sappi paper mill property in Muskegon's Lakeside neighborhood.

Ideas have been lobbed like hand grenades back and forth during public meetings, protests and in the comments on MLive.com. But a serious, purposeful discussion of any proposal has yet to take place.

And that's too bad. This nearly 120-acre property with almost one mile of Muskegon Lake shoreline lies on a key portion of the southern part of the lake where industrial activity has taken place for more than a century.

The paper mill's placement in a neighborhood with a small business district complicates things and has been a source of irritation for almost that entire century. It's time to change direction.

MLive and The Muskegon Chronicle reporter Dave Alexander recently suggested holding a communitywide meeting on the property — and the area's move toward a blue economy. The growing blue economy takes advantage of the commercial, industrial and recreational opportunities a shoreline community provides.

Muskegon area residents need a better grasp of the issues surrounding the former Sappi property, which is now owned by Melching Inc. Scrapping of the paper mill is well under way.

We urge Melching, the city, the state Department of Environmental Quality, Occupy Muskegon, SOS, the neighborhood associations, planning agencies and numerous other interested parties to sit down with the public and talk about the issues.

We're not talking about yelling at each other. We're talking about a measured conversation where all sides are heard and new ideas are considered. ...

We suggest interested parties take a look at the charrette process currently being used by Muskegon County to promote construction discussion of the needs of the jail and juvenile detention facilities. The process, which start(ed) Aug. 28, is a comprehensive, four-day session that provides plenty of information and time for community reaction.

We probably don't need that extensive an approach right now for the Sappi property, but looking at how to generate blue economy opportunities for this area should involve that kind of intense discussion of land use policy ...

The county is hoping its charrette will result in a definitive answer concerning the jail. It would be nice to generate a more solid foundation for discussing lakeshore uses that way, too.

But it's going to take leadership. It's going to take participation. It's going to take determination. It going to require that Muskegon pull together.

It's all about the future. Let's give it a try.

The Muskegon Chronicle

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