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PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Park Township officials say it could be a matter of only days or even just hours before a home clinging to the top of a bluff topples into Lake Michigan.
Looking up at it from below, it’s easy to believe the home off Lakeshore Drive just north of Camp Geneva could go at any time. Parts of the foundation have already tumbled into the water. There’s a hole in the flooring and a crack in the rear of the building.
Officials were on edge as the storm sweep through Thursday night. A gale warning was in effect for Ottawa County until 1 a.m. Friday. Fire officials were on the scene Thursday.
On Thursday night, fire officials said they will continue to monitor the home throughout the night and they put caution tape around the property in the interest of public safety.
During an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, the township Board of Trustees decided unanimously not to intervene and force the demolition of the home, saying it didn’t want to set that precedent.
Next door, another family’s deck is hanging on by a few nails. Township officials are worried that if one goes into the water, it will drag the other along.
The board had gotten a quote from a contractor to demolish the home before that happens but did not have an order from a judge or pure consent from the owner, who wanted to reserve the right to pursue legal action later.
Officials decided that though the home is in imminent danger, ultimately, it’s not appropriate to use tax dollars for issues on private property.
“We obviously recognize the severity of a house falling into the lake, but ultimately the board made the decision not to intervene for a number of different reasons,” Park Township Manager Howard Fink said. “…It’s the homeowners responsibility. The homeowner needs to be held accountable relative to this being his property and his responsibility to make sure he does everything he can to prevent this from happening.”
The board mentioned concerns about the environmental impacts of the house dropping into the lake, but said that because the gas has been turned off and everything removed from inside the building, the impact should be limited.
The threat of high water levels is expected to continue into the spring. Lake levels are forecast to drop by only 6 inches over the winter, putting spring 2020 levels a full foot higher than they were in spring 2019.