Friday, October 17, 2008

DeVos Watch : Every Picnic Area Needs a Helipad

The ongoing saga of Dick's helipad continues. Earlier this year, we brought you the story of how DeVos wants to have his personal helicopter handy, neighborhood wishes be damned. Ada Township was inclined to say "no", but hasn't come to a definitive conclusion yet.

No matter. Clever Dick has figured a way around that little problem.

The paperwork may call it a "picnic area," but neighbors of former Amway Corp. president Dick DeVos are questioning whether his plan to put in a gravel driveway leading to a 40-by-40-foot concrete pad across from his home is a veiled attempt to skirt Ada's ongoing debate about where helicopters should be allowed to land.

Katherine Smith Kennedy, a neighbor of DeVos, said construction on the project has begun, including a staked-out portion identified as "helipad."

Earlier this year, DeVos asked township officials to clarify requirements for heliports because he wanted to build one on 12 acres he owns across the street from his home on Fox Hollow Avenue SE. But after neighbors complained about the prospect of air traffic near their homes, township planners said any rules they crafted likely would not include helicopters landing in residential areas. No decision has been reached.

Meanwhile, neighbors are not happy to see construction traffic.

"It's just unbelievably arrogant to me that this one person is able to start this process before he gets the approval he's seeking," Kennedy said Wednesday. "The biggest thing to me is that this is all for the convenience of one person."

It's not arrogance, it's funny. Just ask the Henry Hoeks, township planning commissioner. He and Dick shared a big laugh about it.

When township planning commissioner Henry Hoeks accepted an invitation to meet Dick DeVos for coffee this week to talk about a proposed ordinance regulating helicopter landing areas, "We joked that maybe it would be better to go ahead and do something and apologize later," Hoeks recalled.

DeVos' neighbors aren't laughing.

They aren't? Well, let's call in the lawyers then. That will be a hoot. See if we can find a loophole - but Dick doesn't really want to go in that direction. Unless you force him to.

On Thursday, DeVos' attorney met with township officials.

"They reviewed several possible legal scenarios that would make the case that landing a helicopter already is permitted," Ada Township Planner Jim Ferro said. "But the view was expressed that they would prefer to act within the scope of an ordinance than seek to prove a pre-existing right."

And besides, Dick is the victim here. He is justified in just going ahead with his plans despite the concerns of his neighbors. Geez, people of Ada, you are so mean.

Hoeks said that, during his meeting with DeVos on Monday, DeVos remarked "how ironic it was that the person who requested an ordinance be established is now being put in a very defensive position."

Expect the township Planning Commission to capitulate on Nov. 20th.