In our opinion, Harbor Shores' revelation that this golf course project has been in the planning stages for almost 20 years is an indication that the Grand Boulevard development was the first step in weakening the park’s deed. As this proposal has evolved the pieces of nondisclosure, manipulation and deception have clearly fallen into public light. It is without pleasure that we show you how the entire area was not included in the planning of its future development while powerful corporate executives, who came here from other parts of the country, laid out their own plans for our lake front community that we were completely unaware of. Edgewater Presentation Board During the 2003 litigation, some of us wondered if Cornerstone Alliance and Whirlpool were involved in the Grand Boulevard Development in Jean Klock Park. Then a presentation board was discovered that was left behind in a local art gallery from a meeting the Chamber of Commerce (Cornerstone Alliance) had held the night before. This presentation board was dated 1999 and clearly showed the Grand Blvd. Development and indicated “recreational development" in the park. The board also appears to indicate that Whirlpool and Cornerstone Alliance were involved with the then undisclosed Grand Blvd. Development. View photo board Canoe Livery Grand Boulevard Renaissance Inc. stated throughout litigation - and published on their website - that the City of Benton Harbor would “replace each and every acre of property developed along Grand Boulevard with acreage on the Paw Paw River” for a canoe and small boat livery. The closest possible exchange of land of equal or greater value is required for mitigation properties and the riverfront was the only property similar to lake-front property that was available in the city. The purpose of mitigation is to create new parkland for that which was lost. Instead, the mitigated land that was swapped for the park were six scattered “green spaces” throughout the downtown area, one that’s contaminated with lead. Another, which is located along the St. Joe River, is the only parcel that’s marginally acceptable as replacement land for Jean Klock Park except that its one of three parcels that are existing parks. In all six cases no “new” parkland has been created. And the riverfront property that was promised in 2003 would be used for a boat launch and canoe livery but for the Harbor Shores golf course mitigation instead.
River Run On December 19, 2004, just 11 months after the Consent Judgment was handed down, the Herald Palladium announced plans for a 500 acre development called ‘River Run.’ The article titled ‘Road map to the future?’ said nothing about Jean Klock Park and included a map showing the project boundaries. Jean Klock Park did not appear within the indicated boundaries. Soon after we learned there were plans to use the park for a golf course and the following spring obtained a brownfield document that included an outdated map showing 2 holes of a golf course in Jean Klock Park. ‘Road map to the future?’ Then on May 8, 2005 the Herald Palladium ran another article titled ‘River Run project aims for balance’. This article went into more detail about the golf course but still no mention of using the park. The article ended with a quote from Jeff Noel, Whirlpool’s vice president of communications and public affairs that, “There are no commitments or preconceived notions”…..to the current plan. Again, the map was included that showed JKP was outside of the boundaries of the proposed project. River Run project aims for balance
'River Run' Changes name to 'Harbor Shores' When the Truth is Exposed By this time word was getting out about the threat to the park and the public began writing letters to the Editor. The Herald Palladium would not publish them saying they were “based on rumor.” The Friends of Jean Klock Park went to the paper with the outdated map and insisted that they publish the truth, which they did on July 3, 2005 in an article titled ‘Fight for Klock.’ In this article ‘River Run’ became ‘Harbor Shores’ and a map of the park as a golf course appeared for the first time. Fight for Klock But on June 28, 2005, just five days earlier, and even though the Herald Palladium was aware of the plans to use the park, an article was published announcing that ‘River Run planning gets city’s approval’. In a grave injustice to the citizens they serve, the city leaders approved the plan without disclosing to the citizens that their park would be sacrificed for this project. River Run planning gets city’s approval No Opposition In March of 2006 it was learned that at the June 15, 2005 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board (MNRTF) meeting that the board had been told by Geoff Fields, the attorney that was hired to represent Benton Harbor for the Grand Blvd. project and who also represented Cornerstone Alliance, that there was no opposition to the mitigation and conversion of the Grand Blvd. property. This statement was made nearly 14 months after the Consent Judgment was handed down and the controversy had quieted down. But the discovery by some city residents that claims of no opposition to the mitigation were made, prompted those residents to go the April 19, 2006 Trust Fund Board meeting to go on record as being opposed to the previous conversion and the newly proposed one. June 15, 2005 MNRTF meeting minutes [See pages 15-16 of PDF] April, 19 2006 MNRTF meeting minutes [See pages 6-7 of PDF] 90 Acres On February 22, 2006 Geoff Fields provided the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board with a preview of the proposal for a golf course within Jean Klock Park. In his statements he tells the Board that there are approximately 90 acres of parkland within the boundaries of Jean Klock Park. As the city’s attorney he knew full well that there are only 73 acres left to Jean Klock Park due to MDOT using approximately 8 acres for the cloverleaf interchange for M-63 in the early '50’s, and the mitigation of 9 acres of parkland resulting from the Settlement Agreement and Consent Judgment. Using the original acreage of the parkland appeared as if less would be lost. Feb. 22, 2006 MNRTF meeting minutes [See pages 4-6 of PDF] Water View Rebuttal From the beginning the developers insisted that a water view was a requirement for a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course therefore Harbor Shores would not go through with the project if they couldn't obtain the park. We called Nicklaus Design and discovered that was not true, that the requirement was acreage. At the August 16, 2006 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board meeting we exposed the truth to the board. On August 22, 2006 at a public comment hearing for the project, we shared the truth with the residents. But once again the spin changed when Mark Mitchell, CEO of the Alliance, agreed that we were correct but that Jack Nicklaus would not designate the course a “Signature” course without the park. Then after the truth was revealed to the Trust Fund Board and the public, Harbor Shores used the water view requirement, again, with the Department of Environmental Quality in order to obtain that agency’s approval for the project. August 16, 2006 MNRTF meeting minutes [See pages 11-18 of PDF] Benton Harbor’s Legal Representation It was unknown to us that Geoff Fields, the attorney from Dickenson and Wright who was hired to represent the city for the Grand Blvd. Development, also represented Cornerstone Alliance at the same time. Mr. Fields was party to writing the language for the 2003 Settlement Agreement, giving him full advantage when he later represented the city for the Harbor Shores project and the time came for him to construct the golf course and lease agreement for the park. Soon after the lease agreement was signed by city officials, John Cameron, a real estate attorney and founder of Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc., joined Geoff Fields’ law firm. At that time, Geoff Fields resigned as the city’s legal representative for the Harbor Shores project citing “the Firm’s completion of its assigned task for the city of Benton Harbor on the Harbor Shores project.” Geoff Fields will still represent the city on any future litigation for the Grand Blvd. Development in regards to the former lawsuit. Letter of Resignation