Environmental rules are blocking repair of Rockford road

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PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Kent County is looking to revoke an environmental protection designation in order to make repairs and improvements to a well-used Rockford road, Jericho Avenue.

Jericho Avenue was designated a Natural Beauty Road in 1979 and is protected through the Michigan Act 451, also known as the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The law regulates the use of land and any work done along the road.

The fix isn’t just a resurfacing job. A new water main needs to be installed, and trees would have to be cut along the street just south of the city limits, all the way to Kroes Street near Rockford High School.

The work can only happen if the Natural Beauty Road designation is revoked, said Jerry Byrne, deputy managing director of operations with the Kent County Road Commission. It’s a roadblock both Rockford city officials and residents we spoke with hope to have fixed soon.

Byrne says that if the designation is dropped, the road surface will be repaired and new guardrails can be installed. He says the road will be made safer.

Improvements to the road began with Plainfield Township plans to improve the area’s water service by building a water main. The Kent County Road Commission saw this as an opportunity to repave the road and construct guard rails.

“When we do this and we partner with our township, we’ll tell them, ‘Be as careful and cautious as you can; remove as few trees as you can,’” said Byrne, "because we’re not out there -- and neither is the township -- just to clearcut the road.”

Signs along the roadway invite residents to a public hearing March 8 at the Plainfield Township Water Department, 5195 Plainfield Ave NE. Everyone we spoke with who lives on Jericho AVenue said they favor both the repaving and new water main.

“They called it a Natural Beauty Road for a reason at the time, and we’re way passed that now,” said Jericho Ave. resident, Mark Adams.

Chad Druckenmiller lives on Jericho Avenue and said falling tree limbs take out his power too often. He even offered to help: “If they want a spot to dump all the dirt, I got a spot right here so I can build a garage. (The project is) way overdue as far as I’m concerned.”

Byrne said there are no estimates on costs of either project, but the plan is to tackle the road during the summer.

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1 Comment

  • Carl

    This is the sort of fiasco that you get into with over-regulation. The solution is simple. The rights of homeowners should always supercede the rights of anyone else, including the federal government! There are plenty of other situations in the county facing similar dilemmas. My brother lives on the north end of Sparta ave, and the land there has become extremely saturated because the county isn’t allowed to clear out the creeks which drain the land into the Rogue River because they run through State Land which is designated as a protected watershed. Never miind that the creeks are blocked up to the point where the water has a hard time even getting into the watershed from this land. The water table there is rising a little bit every year, the road regularly floods over in the spring, and some of his neighbors actually have standing water in their yards year round now! I can’t imagine it will be too long before the drainfields in that area begin getting flooded out, and then the lawsuits will begin! There are things like this happening all over the state too, not just in our county. Homeowners need to be given consideration over things like beauty and non-critical environmental concerns.