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Judge refuses to toss lawsuit against City of Muskegon

Muskegon Lake

Officials sold public land to private developer without public comment, lawsuit alleges

A judge has refused to toss out a lawsuit that accuses the City of Muskegon of selling a developer property on Muskegon Lake without public comment on the matter first.

In an opinion issued last Monday, Muskegon County Circuit Judge Kenneth Hoopes found that city officials had “elements of bad faith” surrounding the transfer of land to local real estate developer, Parkland Properties.

At the center of the debate is the sale of a public street that accesses a public peninsula on Muskegon Lake. The City of Muskegon sold that to Parkland Properties owner, Jon Rooks, for $2 dollars.

In a lawsuit filed last August however, Parkland Properties neighbor, the West Michigan Dock and Market, challenged the sale, claiming officials had violated the city’s ordinance by not holding a public hearing; essentially accusing the city of making a handshake deal behind closed doors.

“The public deserves public comment, they deserve notice, and that was not given. That is the crux of the lawsuit,” Dock and Market President Max McKee said. “Also, two dollars for lakefront property? Awfully cheap.”

If the name Parkland Properties sounds familiar, the company has played a major role in Muskegon’s transformation over the past decade. The development group is responsible for the city’s new convention center, The Shoreline Inn and the Delta by Marriot renovations to name a few.

Meanwhile, the City of Muskegon asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, which the judge denied.

WGVU spoke with Muskegon Mayor Ken Johnson, who said the city would not comment on pending litigation, but did stress that efforts are being made to ensure that residents will still have access to the public peninsula.

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