Observer 11/1/2013 : Page 1

CGC & CICC Present Final Positions On November 5th Consolidation Vote Issues Page 3 Saugatuck City Council Has Contested Races; Douglas Incumbents Run Unopposed Page 3 Presorted Standard U.S. Postage Paid Saugatuck MI Permit No. 30 CURRENT RESIDENT THE LOCAL OBSERVER WE BRING YOU THE NEWS SERVING November 1, 2013 Vol. 11 No. 44 FREE SAUGATUCK * DOUGLAS * SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP * LAKETOWN TOWNSHIP * FENNVILLE * GLENN * GANGES TOWNSHIP * HAMILTON * HOLLAND * SOUTH HAVEN Singapore Dunes, Township’s Planning Commission Spar Over Road Ordinance Language Efrain Sandoval Correspondent Saugatuck Township’s ongoing process of cleaning up its ordinance language concerning pri-vate roads, including private access drives and internal drives, has prompted some misgiving on the part of Singapore Dunes LLC, natural gas magnate Aubrey McClendon’s local development firm. At its Monday meeting, the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission tackled what its mem-bers said was the need to re-word con-fusing language in the zoning ordi-nance. Provisions in the law require -aside from a primary access -an emergency access for develop-ments consisting of more than 30 dwelling units. The ordinance also requires a second private access for develop-ments of more than 50 dwelling units. As noted by Singapore Dunes Attorney James Bruinsma dur-ing Monday’s meeting, the McClendon property does not have a second private access road which would serve the proposed 91 total housing units: 19 at the western-most portion fronting Lake Michigan and 72 as part of a four-building condo complex by the old Broward Marine facility and possibly more in the future. However, Bruinsma referred to the 2012 federal district court-approved consent agreement between the township and Singapore Dunes (which settled a lawsuit between the two sides) to assert: “The township was prohib-ited by the consent judgment from requiring that (another second access road).” “It (the proposed language changes) creates a new requirement that didn’t exist before and now it does.” Saugatuck Township Planning Commission Member Joe Milauckas disagreed. “I don’t think we have changed anything,” he said. “It’s just a clarification (for the regulation of emergency access and private access roads).” Bruinsma said he trusted the Saugatuck Township Board and the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission would adhere to the consent judgment. Alluding to other anti-proj-ect special interest groups who have been trying to thwart the Singapore Dunes project, Bruinsma noted, “Any sort of change made to this (zoning ordinance) could be potentially exploited (by some) and cause expense and delay.” Some Planning Commission members acknowledged Singapore Dunes’ concerns, but Milauckas said, “We are going to give this applicant every accommodation we can, but I don’t think we should incorporate wording that specifically addresses the applicant’s concerns.” Per the advice of Saugatuck Township Planning Consultant Mark Sisson, the commission decided to refer the issue to Saugatuck Township Attorney Ron Bultje for guidance. In a related matter, the developer currently has an application before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a special exception in critical dune areas, namely a request to partially relocate, widen and extend the exist-ing private access road connecting at the intersection of 135th Avenue and 66th Street. Running east-to-west to the property’s multi-million dollar beach house along Lake Michigan, the exist-ing roadway, as its currently config-ured, was dismissed as a viable option because of its greater impact to the steep slopes within the critical dune area. The developer further sought to improve the existing Dugout Road as another option, but the Allegan County Road Commission abandoned the road to Saugatuck Township which has elect-ed not to commit resources to make it suitable for vehicular travel, states Singapore Dunes’ application before the DEQ. The special exception request is awaiting decision by the state agency and could make the township’s actions a moot point. Presbyterian Camp Development Proposal Gets Tentative OK From Saugatuck Planning Commission Efrain Sandoval Correspondent Strong opposition from local residents, those with historical, personal ties to the Presbyterian Camps and advocates of environmen-tal protection was not enough to stop the Saugatuck Planning Commission from tentatively approving, in a 4-to-2 vote last week a proposed develop-ment on the camp property. Developer David Barker is looking to create eight lots on 22 acres fronting Lake Michigan, just south of Oval Beach. The property totals 130 acres for which Barker is in the process of purchasing for $10 million. He said he has no plans yet for the rest of the property, which would require both local and state reviews as well before any further building projects could commence. Last Thursday’s (Oct. 24) tentative approval, which came after more than 2½ hours of discussion by the Planning Commission, passed with the understanding that final approval would contain conditions. Those conditions are expected to be discussed by the com-mission at its next meeting before a vote is taken on final approval of Barker’s proposed development proj-ect. Jeff Spangler, a former member of the Planning Commission and also a long-time and current member of the Saugatuck City Council, spoke during public com-ments. Spangler said his opinions were his own and not representative of the city council. “I was on the Planning Commission during the revision of the Conservation and Recreation District (CRC),” he said. “The reason for the revision was that we realized that the camp would someday be sold even though the owners said they had no intention of selling at the time.” He continued, “We also realized that in addition to the pres-ent use as a camp we would have to include another reasonable use so as not to devalue the property if it was eventually sold or expanded. “The law also dictated that we assign a reasonable use to the property; in other words we couldn’t zone it as ‘open space.’” Spangler noted the proposal to build eight single-family homes on two-acre lots is a reasonable use. “It is a much lesser use than a camp. It is compatible with surrounding proper-ties which have much smaller lot sizes.” Spangler went on to warn the commissioners about a possible lawsuit if the proposed development was to be denied. His comments couldn’t have contrasted more with those who spoke out against the project as well as the most vocal of the Planning Commission members, Sharon Kelly. For example, Gary Medler, who owns a home adjacent to the camp site, noted, “The application has been filed as a single-family homes special land use. Single family homes does not mean residential lot development and residential lot development is not an included term within the meaning of single-family homes.” Speaking to the CRC’s impact on the zoning of the proper-ty, Medler added, “To maximize preservation of the environment, the CRC District only accommodates the camp and low-density residential uses.” Saugatuck Zoning Administrator Mike Clark completely disagreed. “This is a low-density resi-dential use,” he said, adding that the proposed request was 0.352 dwelling (Cont. Page 10)

Singapore Dunes, Township’s Planning Commission Spar Over Road Ordinance Language

Efrain Sandoval<br /> Correspondent<br /> <br /> Saugatuck Township’s ongoing process of cleaning up its ordinance language concerning private roads, including private access drives and internal drives, has prompted some misgiving on the part of Singapore Dunes LLC, natural gas magnate Aubrey McClendon’s local development firm.<br /> <br /> At its Monday meeting, the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission tackled what its members said was the need to re-word confusing language in the zoning ordinance.<br /> <br /> Provisions in the law require - aside from a primary access - an emergency access for developments consisting of more than 30 dwelling units.<br /> <br /> The ordinance also requires a second private access for developments of more than 50 dwelling units.<br /> <br /> As noted by Singapore Dunes Attorney James Bruinsma during Monday’s meeting, the McClendon property does not have a second private access road which would serve the proposed 91 total housing units: 19 at the western-most portion fronting Lake Michigan and 72 as part of a four-building condo complex by the old Broward Marine facility and possibly more in the future.<br /> <br /> However, Bruinsma referred to the 2012 federal district court-approved consent agreement between the township and Singapore Dunes (which settled a lawsuit between the two sides) to assert: <br /> <br /> “The township was prohibited by the consent judgment from requiring that (another second access road).” <br /> <br /> “It (the proposed language changes) creates a new requirement that didn’t exist before and now it does.” <br /> <br /> Saugatuck Township Planning Commission Member Joe Milauckas disagreed.<br /> <br /> “I don’t think we have changed anything,” he said. “It’s just a clarification (for the regulation of emergency access and private access roads).” <br /> <br /> Bruinsma said he trusted the Saugatuck Township Board and the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission would adhere to the consent judgment.<br /> <br /> Alluding to other anti-project special interest groups who have been trying to thwart the Singapore Dunes project, Bruinsma noted, “Any sort of change made to this (zoning ordinance) could be potentially exploited (by some) and cause expense and delay.” <br /> <br /> Some Planning Commission members acknowledged Singapore Dunes’ concerns, but Milauckas said, “We are going to give this applicant every accommodation we can, but I don’t think we should incorporate wording that specifically addresses the applicant’s concerns.” <br /> <br /> Per the advice of Saugatuck Township Planning Consultant Mark Sisson, the commission decided to refer the issue to Saugatuck Township Attorney Ron Bultje for guidance.<br /> <br /> In a related matter, the developer currently has an application before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a special exception in critical dune areas, namely a request to partially relocate, widen and extend the existing private access road connecting at the intersection of 135th Avenue and 66th Street.<br /> <br /> Running east-to-west to the property’s multi-million dollar beach house along Lake Michigan, the existing roadway, as its currently configured, was dismissed as a viable option because of its greater impact to the steep slopes within the critical dune area.<br /> <br /> The developer further sought to improve the existing Dugout Road as another option, but the Allegan County Road Commission abandoned the road to Saugatuck Township which has elected not to commit resources to make it suitable for vehicular travel, states Singapore Dunes’ application before the DEQ.<br /> <br /> The special exception request is awaiting decision by the state agency and could make the township’s actions a moot point.

Presbyterian Camp Development Proposal Gets Tentative OK From Saugatuck Planning Commission

Efrain Sandoval<br /> Correspondent<br /> <br /> Strong opposition from local residents, those with historical, personal ties to the Presbyterian Camps and advocates of environmental protection was not enough to stop the Saugatuck Planning Commission from tentatively approving, in a 4-to- 2 vote last week a proposed development on the camp property.<br /> <br /> Developer David Barker is looking to create eight lots on 22 acres fronting Lake Michigan, just south of Oval Beach.<br /> <br /> The property totals 130 acres for which Barker is in the process of purchasing for $10 million.<br /> <br /> He said he has no plans yet for the rest of the property, which would require both local and state reviews as well before any further building projects could commence.<br /> <br /> Last Thursday’s (Oct. 24) tentative approval, which came after more than 2½ hours of discussion by the Planning Commission, passed with the understanding that final approval would contain conditions.<br /> <br /> Those conditions are expected to be discussed by the commission at its next meeting before a vote is taken on final approval of Barker’s proposed development project.<br /> <br /> Jeff Spangler, a former member of the Planning Commission and also a long-time and current member of the Saugatuck City Council, spoke during public comments. Spangler said his opinions were his own and not representative of the city council.<br /> <br /> “I was on the Planning Commission during the revision of the Conservation and Recreation District (CRC),” he said.<br /> <br /> “The reason for the revision was that we realized that the camp would someday be sold even though the owners said they had no intention of selling at the time.” <br /> <br /> He continued, “We also realized that in addition to the present use as a camp we would have to include another reasonable use so as not to devalue the property if it was eventually sold or expanded.<br /> <br /> “The law also dictated that we assign a reasonable use to the property; in other words we couldn’t zone it as ‘open space.’” <br /> <br /> Spangler noted the proposal to build eight single-family homes on two-acre lots is a reasonable use. “It is a much lesser use than a camp. It is compatible with surrounding properties which have much smaller lot sizes.” <br /> <br /> Spangler went on to warn the commissioners about a possible lawsuit if the proposed development was to be denied.<br /> <br /> His comments couldn’t have contrasted more with those who spoke out against the project as well as the most vocal of the Planning Commission members, Sharon Kelly.<br /> <br /> For example, Gary Medler, who owns a home adjacent to the camp site, noted, “The application has been filed as a single-family homes special land use. Single family homes does not mean residential lot development and residential lot development is not an included term within the meaning of single-family homes.” <br /> <br /> Speaking to the CRC’s impact on the zoning of the property, Medler added, “To maximize preservation of the environment, the CRC District only accommodates the camp and low-density residential uses.” <br /> <br /> Saugatuck Zoning Administrator Mike Clark completely disagreed.<br /> <br /> “This is a low-density residential use,” he said, adding that the proposed request was 0.352 dwelling units per acre, compared to the residential density of Shorewood Association, just south of the Presbyterian site, at 0.977 dwelling units per acre.<br /> <br /> Kelly, however, said she found the proposal to be inconsistent with the zoning standards in numerous ways.<br /> <br /> “It threatens the crown jewel of Saugatuck in terms of the view from the beach (Oval Beach) and the view from the water,” said Kelly. “The houses are on the beach (the lakefront areas), not on the ridge. That is what you would see. This would dramatically change the property in the form of big houses. Five percent (maximum lot coverage) of two acres is a big house.” <br /> <br /> Among the conditions for final approval is a recommended bond or other financial guarantees from Barker to ensure compliance of driveways, walks, landscaping, etc. Roads would need final approval by the local fire department.<br /> <br /> Due to critical dune land areas, the actual building of each individual lot would need Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approval before the matter went back before the Planning Commission.<br /> <br /> Barker is proposing to connect his development at Perryman Street, serving as the only access to Park Street.<br /> <br /> The project also calls for a 50-foot non-motorized easement from Park Street to Oval Beach running parallel to Perrymean Street <br /> <br /> A 16-foot private road system and driveways to the residential lots are part of the project as well.

Laura Durham

 

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