On June 10, 2021, the Planning Commission of the Charter Township of Oxford gave final approval for the final site plan for Manitou Hills Site Condominium. The applicant was Clearview Homes of Rochester Hills. Manitou Hills Condominium is located south of Drahner, west of Lapeer Road and north of Manitou Lake in Oxford Township. This is an 18-unit site condominium directly adjacent to the wetlands on Manitou Lake.
The Master Deed and the Condominium Bylaw documents written by Clearview for Manitou Hills fail to mention the proximity of the wetlands or state limits on property owner’s permission to modify those wetlands. This error of omission could potentially result in an adverse impact on the overall health of the lake. Homeowners new to rural areas and wetlands specifically can intend to preserve nature and keep the integrity of our lake environment. If they do not have knowledge regarding the damage building a dock can have on fragile wetlands or have not been told that our Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) requires a permit be taken out before disrupting wetlands, the homeowner could take steps that inadvertently cause damage to the wetlands and lake. Homeowners frequently assume features directly adjacent to their property are not owned by another individual and can therefore be altered to their own taste.
Wetlands serve a wide variety of purposes, such as wildlife habitat, flood control, water filtration, groundwater recharge, and scenic and recreation uses. Wetlands are known to be fragile environments that can easily be damaged. By omitting property regulations with respect to the wetlands, these properties could potentially represent nine docks through that ecosystem. It is the belief of the property owners on Manitou Lake that the Manitou Hills Bylaws need to include information/regulations about the conservation of our wetlands. During the June 10 Planning Commission meeting it was noted by a commissioner that the Oxford Township Commission has no authority over a builder’s documentation and cannot force them to advise homeowners of the proper treatment of wetlands. Clearview Homes had two representatives present at the Oxford Township meeting and they did not seek to address their neighbors concerns by adding wetland information in their documents. It is our feeling this development does not adhere to the stated Objectives and Strategies as outlined in the Charter Township of Oxford Master Plan. Under the heading “Open Space and Greenways” Objective #1 reads “Preserve valuable, contiguous open space within residential developments.” And Objective #2 reads “Protect valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, as well as connections between such areas, throughout the Township.” While these wetlands are not located on the trail system, they are a valuable natural topography that helps maintain the scenic character of the Oxford landscape. We feel they are under threat by lack of disclosure.
It is not without previous experience we residents of Manitou Lake are nervous about the Manitou Hills site condominiums being developed by Clearview LLC. This developer also built out the Settlement of Manitou on our lake in 1999 and included information with respect to wetlands in the Master Deed document which is on file in Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds in the County offices on Telegraph Road in Pontiac. In this document under Article VII EASEMENTS Section 8. Wetland Areas is the following language:
Certain portions of the Condominium, including certain Unit areas, have been designated as “Wetlands” as shown on the Condominium Subdivision Plan. The Wetlands are not to be disturbed either by fill, clearing of trees or construction of any improvements without the prior approval of Oxford Township.
Over the ensuing years these homeowners removed trees located in the wetlands, constructed docks through the wetlands (two that are longer than a city block), and pulled up stumps from the wetland and lake bottom so they could have free passage with pontoon boats. Several of the docks have multiple pontoon boats. The resulting increase in lake traffic has affected the natural beauty of the lake that appeals to homeowners.
Calls were made to Oxford Township offices regarding tree removal and dock construction, and we were told that there is only one part-time enforcement officer, and he did not have the time to address our concerns. As of June 2021, there continues to be only one part-time enforcement officer. This lack of enforcement by Oxford Township adds to our concern with Clearview’s new development. Wetland protection needs to be a top priority to every stakeholder or we risk losing valuable natural areas.
Respectfully submitted by Manitou Lake Improvement Association