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Plans for beach seawall are off, public debate rages on

SAINT JOSEPH, Mich. - Public outcry in has halted a beachside building project in St. Joseph.

Hundreds of signatures were collected by neighbors opposing a homeowner’s plans to build a seawall between Tiscornia and Jean Klock Park. The homeowner withdrew his plans for the seawall around his home late Sunday night.
The home, at 396 Ridgeway Drive in St. Joseph, is known as the closest home built to the water’s edge in the neighborhood. “They clearly took a risk by building where they did and they’re experiencing the wrath of Mother Nature occasionally,” said Liz Glendening, a Ridgeway Drive resident.
Glendening, President of the Edgewater Neighborhood Association, began the petition drive against the seawall plans. As of Monday, nearly 200 signatures had been collected by residents and neighbors.
Monday marks a win for the opposition. In an email sent to the neighborhood, the homeowner announced that he was withdrawing the proposal. “We wish to apologize to all for the harm we may have caused, make amends, and withdraw the proposal,” the email stated.
The homeowner, who could not be reached Monday for comment, said he planned to build the seawall to protect his home. “Our plan was only to provide protection to our home as thousands along Lake Michigan have done before,” said the homeowner’s email. He also said a seawall would have been covered by beach grass and sand.  
The seawall would be built completely on his property but Glendening said it would harm public land and nearby homeowner’s property. “As the lake hit the wall (water) would go around the sides (of the seawall) and suck back out the sand,” Glendening said. “(Seawalls) cause more erosion than they stop.”
Glendening said any seawall erodes the beach around the structure and eats away at the public portion of the beach. She also said a seawall might necessitate other adjacent seawalls. “We don’t care who it is, it’s not a personal vendetta,” said Glendening. “It’s any seawall.”
The St. Joseph City Commission held a public hearing on the issue Monday night. A moratorium was enacted for seawalls until July. That will give the city’s planning commission time to research the issue. A decision could be made by the city to either allow or ban seawalls when the moratorium is up.

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