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The Jim Wickstra Story

 Since 1989, Jim Wickstra has been fighting for compensation from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to get compensation for refusing to allow him to build a house on property he owns in Muskegon County.

Wickstra purchased a 3-acre parcel along the Lake Michigan shorefront to build a quality beach home he could sell for as much as $500,000. But a few months after he bought the land, the state of Michigan approved the Michigan Sand Dune Protection Act designed ostensibly to protect sand dunes from encroaching development. Because Wickstra's house would be located on one of the protected dunes, he had to seek the approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to start construction. The DNR denied his permit even though he offered to build the house on stilts, which would minimize the impact on the dune.

Wickstra filed suit against the DNR on the grounds that denial of the permit reduced the value of his property. A Michigan Tax Tribunal ruled that the lot was worth $200,000 with a building permit but only $500 without a permit. The Michigan Court of Claims Judge, Carolyn Stell, rejected Wickstra's property rights lawsuit, arguing that his property value didn't decline sufficiently in value to justify compensation for a regulatory taking.

Although he was unsuccessful in appealing the case, Wickstra has vowed to fight on. He is particularly angered by the fact that a DNR official, David Moss, may have given false and misleading statements in court. According to Wickstra, Moss claimed that local officials told Wickstra that he could build his house on a wetland located behind the sand dune. But Michael Cockerill, supervisor of the White Ship Township, submitted a letter to the Michigan Court of Claims saying: "At no time did I tell David Moss or anyone else that fill would be permitted on the wetland area." Nevertheless, the courts have accepted the DNR's claim that Wickstra would have to go through the process of applying for a building permit that he knows and the county knows will not be granted.

Wickstra says the ordeal that has cost him $170,000 in legal fees.
Source: James Wickstra