The Hayes Township permits and approvals

No current township approvals exist, but the Zoning Administrator has determined the Township doesn't have jurisdiction over artificial boat basins and canals. So he's giving an implicit go-ahead for those, and continues to separate the project as two separate approvals. Additionally he's said in a sworn statement that the "boathouse" is just "part of the house" and he'd likely approve it (again). And the Laws have unfettered support from the Hayes Township Board of Trustees.


In August the Laws first applied for a “boat basin” with an application form and a one-page conceptual design. Then-zoning administrator Larry Sullivan wrote a determination letter saying the Laws could not proceed without a variance for seawalls, a type of variance which Hayes Township does not permit. The plans did not depict a boathouse.

In October, Township Supervisor Ron Van Zee toured the Laws’ property with Scott Law and admired what they were planning. Law wrote Van Zee one reason he bought over 400 acres was for his employees, and that he intended to build a “dining facility for guest and events,” and other resort amenities.

The so-called “Shoreland Protection Subcommittee,” meeting without Tip of the Mitt for technical expertise, recommended excavation the project without regard for protecting the land of the Shoreland Protection Strip.

On November 19, 2019 the Planning Commission approved the boat basin, channel and a landscaping plan design based on an excavation of a 30 x 50 foot portion of the Shoreland Protection Strip.

The minutes of that meeting were never posted on the Township website. The public had no way of knowing about this decision in order to appeal it. Van Zee sent the Laws a letter saying the Planning Commission “approved, with conditions, your application for boat basin and shoreline improvements.”

After 12 months the approvals by Planning Commission expire, according to the zoning ordinance.


That spring, the Laws created their architectural plans and landscaping scale drawings for the “boathouse” and dining/event facility, and excavated boat basin and channel.

On July 6, they applied for a zoning permit from Hayes Township, submitting all those documents (some pictured here).

Zoning Administrator Ron Van Zee rubber-stamped the application and issued the zoning permit in just 2 days. He filed no zoning administrator report publicly so the public did not know it even happened, in order to appeal the decision.

The zoning permit issued in 2020 expired in 2021 according the Zoning Ordinance.



We learned through the Charlevoix County building department, just by a chance phone call, that a “new marina” was going in at Anglers Cove. Not knowing how to appeal, resident LuAnne Kozma made a presentation to the Board of Trustees on August 9, based on what she had learned.

After promising she could give the presentation, at the Township Hall Supervisor Ron Van Zee tried to persuade her not to give the presentation. 

The presentation is to the right. —>

She asked the Planning Commission Chair Roy Griffitts permission to give a similar presentation at the Commission’s next meeting on August 17. He agreed to a 15-minute time slot during Public Comment, not as an agenda item.

The warning

Frank Shepherd, then a ZBA member, wrote Kozma on August 10 after reviewing her presentation and, claiming it was “a done deal,” tried to discourage her from pursuing any avenues with the Township, instead encouraging her to take it to the courts:

saw your presentation… all of the deck you produced… very clearly… nice job. . . . And unless you go the court this is a done deal…and will be approved by Army Corp shortly…”

He stated the following in bullet points:

1. I do not believe the planning commission will reverse themselves. Nor will the Township Trustees.

. . . 

7. In my opinion you do not have a “friend” in the township government who supports your position and is working behind the scenes to assist you. In fact, I believe it is the opposite.

8. Your presentation was superb… a real tour de force. Nicely done. BUT, your audience is minuscule.

9. You will have to win in the courts challenging the local govt, the state govt. and the Feds (Army Corp) and that is one tall order that will take plenty of money.. and time… and effort… and travel… etc.

10. The locals are not your friend.

11. I think Scott Law has many more dollars to use against your potential law suite and court battle…piles of money.”


Shepherd did not suggest that Kozma might appeal decisions to the Zoning Board of Appeals, nor did he reveal that he was on the ZBA.

The residents organize


Kozma and her husband Ellis Boal started organizing. They put signs out on Boyne City Road, created this website, a Facebook page, wrote all the waterfront property owners in Hayes Township, got a brief TV spot, and wrote letters-to-the-editor in two newspapers encouraging residents to attend the rescheduled August 31 Planning Commission meeting where Kozma was supposed to give her presentation. 

By email she urged the commissioners to review the modified plans the Laws put forward to the Army Corps, which asked for a greater amount of Shoreland Protection Strip to be excavated. Boal wrote township officials that the Ordinary High Water Mark would move inland with an artificial boat basin, violating the 100-foot setback for buildings according to the zoning ordinance.

The Township obstructs the residents

Board of Trustees meeting Sept 13, 2021 video

Fearing a big crowd, the Planning Commission put last-minute Covid-precautions in place for the August 31 meeting, limiting the number of people who could attend in the small hall. About 30 people showed up. Upon the advice of township attorney Todd Millar, Chair Roy Griffitts adjourned the meeting to September. They could have adjourned to outdoors, but did not.

On September 13, the Board of Trustees met. Resident Bill Henne, himself a former planning commissioner and ZBA member, asked the Board to remove Ron Van Zee as Zoning Administrator, a conflicting dual role with his elected job as Township Supervisor. In response, Board members gave prepared remarks defending and glorifying Van Zee.

Under questioning by Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council’s Kacey Cook, Van Zee gave confusing, contradictory answers about the zoning permit he issued in 2020, saying it doesn’t expire, it renews automatically, and it’s not really a permit. He was just trying to resurrect a dead permit.

Other residents, like Lucy Moore, also spoke against the project. She said the Laws’ plans are just a “party house” over the public waters. Moore noted her grandfather bought lakefront property here over 100 years ago.

Just a few days before, Griffitts and Van Zee penned an unsigned missive on the Township website, “Township Response to Shoreline Project” without naming the project, the landowners, or the address defending the Planning Commission’s 2019 decision. 

The next night, the Planning Commission had its rescheduled meeting. (See video, below, right). At the end, Griffitts read a long, prepared statement defending Commission decisions in 2019, asking at the end for his fellow commissioners’ agreement that their approval was still valid. One agreed and the others said nothing, consensus-style. However, the Zoning Ordinance says Planning Commission approvals expire after 12 months. 


Planning Commission shifts gears and guts shoreland protections
Planning Commission meeting Sept 14, 2022 video

What residents didn’t know at the time, was that the Commission had reversed course on its rewrite of the zoning ordinance right before that August 31 meeting. Thanks to ousted Planning Commissioner Omar Feliciano providing the documents, we now know the Commission had reviewed rewritten drafts of consultant Beckett and Raeder’s proposed rewrite. But when the Law Boathouse project came into public view in August, the Planning Commission suddenly shifted to using the Bay Township ordinance as their rewrite, but never disclosing this at a public meeting. The public did not know about their work all summer as none of the 2021 Planning Commission meeting agendas or minutes were posted on the Township’s website. Handouts of the drafts were refused at Commission meetings and even when requested by residents through the Freedom of Information Act. As Planning Commissioners discussed the drafts, the audience was in the dark.

ZBA appeal filed over September statements about non-expiration of Township approvals

On September 27, residents LuAnne Kozma, Irene Fowle and Elisabeth Hicklen, who live near the Laws, filed a case with the Township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The case appealed the statements made by Van Zee regarding the zoning permit issued in 2020 not expiring, and the consensus decision made by Planning Commission about its approval of the boat basin not expiring, at the September 13 and 14 meetings. They also asked for “interpretation requests” –that is, asking the ZBA to interpret the sections of the zoning ordinance regarding in particular the concept of the Ordinary High Water Mark and how the proposed buildings would violate the required 100-foot setback from it, and the protections in the Waterfront Regulations that prohibit excavation of the Shoreland Protection Strip, the 50-foot strip of land landward from the Ordinary High Water Mark.

After the Township obstructed the ZBA cases from being heard, Kozma sued: once to compel Van Zee to transfer the case to the ZBA, and a second time to compel the Township to hold a timely hearing, which at the time of filing, was already past the 45 day deadline.

Van Zee's determinations in November

In the course of Kozma’s litigation against the Township, where she was trying to get the Township to hear Kozma, Hicklen and Fowle’s ZBA case, the Township did a turnabout: it admitted in court documents that the Zoning Permit for the boathouse Van Zee issued in 2020, and the Planning Commission’s approval in 2019 had indeed expired. This mooted the two appeals in Kozma, Fowle and Hicklen’s ZBA case.

But Van Zee made new determinations about the proposed project in sworn affidavits to the court:

That there is “nothing” in the zoning ordinance that regulates boat basins and canals.

And that the Laws’ proposed “boathouse” is “part of the house.” and he does not need to see site plans.

These determinations led to Kozma’s second ZBA appeal case, challenging those determinations.


No action by Township but Van Zee says to tribe: "In fact our ordinance prohibits excavation of the 50' greenbelt area"

Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians letter about Ordinary High Water Mark
Van Zee's email to LTTB

ZBA update-Hearings are scheduled for August 15 and 22: The ZBA cases were sabotaged by Deputy Supervisor and ZBA member Roy Griffitts’ unlawful participation at a nullified hearing in January. The ZBA cases were further sabotaged in April when the Township refused to properly public notice them, then cancelled them when Kozma pointed out the error. Hearings have been scheduled for August 15, 2022 for the Appeals case, and for August 22, 2022 for the Interpretation case. Both hearings are on Mondays and will begin at 10 am. See details on the ZBA cases page of this website.

Laws have not yet re-applied: No action by the Township has taken place in 2022 so far. The Laws have not re-applied for new approvals as of July 1.

Van Zee says excavation of ‘greenbelt’ is prohibited: But we learned through the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians tribe that its DNR director had written Hayes Township in March in support of Kozma’s ZBA appeal case. The tribe reiterated how the Ordinary High Water Mark would move inland in an artificial boat basin and therefore it would not meet the 100-foot setback requirement. This letter was not in the ZBA files at the Township Hall when Kozma inspected the files in late May.

In response to the letter, Ron Van Zee wrote to LTBB’s Spencer McCormack:

“Hayes Township cannot grant authority to dredge or excavate the shoreline of Lake Charlevoix. In fact, our ordinance prohibits excavation of the 50′ greenbelt area.”

 So the question is: Why is Van Zee punking everyone and doing the opposite, determining the boathouse (which includes excavation of the shoreland) is approvable for a zoning permit in a sworn statement to the court?