Lakeshore homeowners battle in court over sea wall lawsuit

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of Ottawa County homeowners battled in court Tuesday morning to protect their property from erosion. 

Homeowner Susan Wittenbach is being sued by Linda Duke along with the Dunes Homeowners Association in Grand Haven Township. They say Wittenbach’s plans to install a rock wall revetment that could protect her home would directly affect other neighbors’ ability to use the beach access easement they all have rights to. 

News 8 spoke to Wittenbach in September 2019 about the erosion issues that she’s been experiencing at her West Olive cottage just off of Lakeshore Drive. She says since then, the issue has only progressed.

In court Tuesday, Wittenbach said she spoke with the homeowners association about her plans and then worked with a Holland contractor at Land Tech to begin pulling permits to install a rock wall at the base of the bluff behind her home. She says it was clear that everyone was on one accord at the time.

Neighbors with the homeowners association agree that this happened but say between that time and now, the contractor has redrawn the plans several times. As a result, Duke, who reserves the rights to the beachfront, revoked permission to build the rock wall.

Duke’s attorneys allege that Wittenbach and the contractors continued with the plan anyway. Now, the two are in court debating who has rights to what property.

Judge Jon Hulsing called court to order at 9 a.m Tuesday and the court heard from multiple witnesses, including two contractors who were considered experts at erosion control and Wittenbach. Witness accounts lasted well past 5 p.m.

The two contractors had conflicting opinions about what the best method of erosion control would be for the Lakeshore Drive property.

Wittenbach’s attorneys argued that the rock wall was the best option to save her home. They say other methods could cause more harm to the property or would only be temporary solutions.

The homeowners association’s attorneys argued the proposed method will only protect a couple homes while also blocking access to the beach. They also voiced concerns about safety if rocks were to become dislodged, but the defense debated that was a nonissue.

The homeowners association lawyers say there are better methods to save the home.

Litigation is expected to continue Wednesday morning. Wittenbach says she plans to make a decision on what to do with her home after the judge delivers his ruling.

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