Observer 3/13/2015 : Page 1

Don’t Forget To Vote For Saugatuck! The City of Saugatuck is clinging to a narrow lead in the race for votes to make it USA Today and 10Best Readers Choice Travel Awards’ “Best Coastal Small Town In America”. As of Wednesday, Saugatuck was in first place in the voting! But that top spot can only be maintained if all residents, friends, visitors, stu-dents, etc. -cast their ballots for this great city of ours! To vote Saugatuck into first place, visit: Each individual can vote once a day through the duration of the contest. Voting ends Monday, March 16, with winners being announced Wednesday, March 18. Presorted Standard U.S. Postage Paid Saugatuck MI Permit No. 30 CURRENT RESIDENT THE LOCAL OBSERVER WE BRING YOU THE NEWS SERVING March 13, 2015 Vol. 13 No. 11 FREE SAUGATUCK * DOUGLAS * SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP * LAKETOWN TOWNSHIP * FENNVILLE * GLENN * GANGES TOWNSHIP * HAMILTON * HOLLAND * SOUTH HAVEN Council Amends Codes To Allow For Septic Fields In Critical Dunes Offered As An Alternative To Connection With Municipal Sewer System Efrain Sandoval Correspondent Septic fields are now per-missible in critical sand dune area within the City of Saugatuck as an alternative to connecting to the municipal sewer system. The Saugatuck City Council approved the amendment to the city code Monday in a five-to-one roll call vote, with Saugatuck City Council Member Barry Johnson being the dissenting voice. The move was postponed at the previous council meeting two weeks ago because council wanted to get legal advice on certain aspects of the amendment. Monday’s approval opens the doors for Grand Rapids developer David Barker to be able to submit a request to the city to install drain fields as part of a septic waste system, a plan—like any other plan from any other developer—that would have to be reviewed and approved or denied by the city. Barker, present at Monday’s meeting, wants to prepare the former Presbyterian Church Camps property, just south of Oval Beach, for 21 upscale homes on 130-acres. He has asserted in numerous occasions that septic fields are less expensive and less disruptive to dunes. As far as water is concerned, he plans on connecting to city’s water system. But his plans does have its critics. “This is putting the cart way way before the horse,” said Johnson, explaining the council should require more detailed plans from Barker. Concerned about gratuitous damage to the dunes, the trees, the overall physical impact, Johnson said he had only seen drawings of homes but nothing about septic fields. “Somebody is going to buy that property, and the DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) or other reg-ulatory agency is going to come, and what if they say, ‘You can’t put septic fields here.’” Johnson expressed the same concerns at the previous council meeting. In contrast, Barker told the Observer Newspapers on Monday that the DEQ had in fact already reviewed where the septic fields will be going, and the regulatory agency found no problems. As for Johnson’s colleagues, they differed in approach from him. “As a utility you always want more users (customers), that increase is great as a whole but there is a practi-cality to it,” said Saugatuck Council Member Mark Bekken, who also is the board president of the local waste-water treatment plant, the Kalamazoo Lake Sewer and Water Authority. “Personally and as a council member, I have some concerns about tearing up Perryman Street (which would possibly be required if Barker decided to go with municipal connection),” said Bekken, concerned about liabili-ty. The city would be fully responsi-ble, not the developer, if problems such broken lines would arise. And Saugatuck Mayor Bill Hess explained before Monday’s vote, “We are not approving the installa-tion of septic fields, we are approving the mechanism that will allow them to be approved (via city review).” Monday’s amendment was previously postponed because council wanted to first get legal counsel advice about whether or not the city could legally oblige a developer/ property owner to make monetary contributions to the sewer utility service as a form of compensation for not connecting to the municipal sewer system. Legal counsel recommend-ed the city against such a measure. If it was the legally doable that the city could demand a payment in lieu of municipal connection, city officials figured they would introduce it as one of the provisions in city code. Former Saugatuck Mayor Henry Van Singel Dies At 88 “A day away from Saugatuck is a day wasted.” Former Saugatuck Mayor Henry Van Singel’s signature line, now a part of his legacy. Van Singel died Sunday, March 8, at Grace of Douglas Care Center. He was 88 years old. Van Singel was known for his top hat and his love for the city. During his tenure he a great ambassador for the City of Saugatuck, also working as an Information Booth volunteer, he would greet visitors and make them feel right at home. Last year, Singel was honored for his work in the Saugatuck community with an official proclamation from Gov. Rick Snyder. His final term with the Saugatuck City Council ended in 2013, finishing 13-years on the council. Van Singel first served on city council in 1994, and served as mayor from 2002 to 2004. Saugatuck City Faces Lawsuits From Former Camp Neighbors Efrain Sandoval Correspondent The City of Saugatuck is facing two different lawsuits from neighbors of the former Presbyterian Camps property, which is currently being proposed for development, 21 upscale homes. The Saugatuck City Council went into close session at Monday’s meeting to discuss the issues with Saugatuck City Council Crystal Morgan. The council said little when it opened the meeting, but did make a motion to instruct Morgan to con-tinue settlement discussions with the opposing parties. The property was been mired in controversy since Grand Rapids-based developer David Barker purchase the130-acre property on early last year for $10 million. Barker, not a party in any of the lawsuits, is planning to prepare 21 lots in the property for upscale homes worth close to $2 million. His previ-ous plan submittal consisted of eight homes was approved. Now he says he plans on adding 13 for a total of 21 units, a planned unit development (PUD) that will have to pass the Saugatuck Planning Commission review and go before city council for final approval. Neighbors of the camps property and proponents of environmental preser-vation have harshly criticized the pro-posed subdivision, concerned about the degradation of dunes, the ecosys-tem, the dangers of what they argue will be homes situated too close to the lakeshore, and of what they say will be a ruined view of the landscape, partic-ular from the point of view from Oval Beach. One of the lawsuit against the city comes from Gary Medler, a retired lawyer whose home is adjacent to the camps property. Medler's com-plaint, filed with the Allegan County Circuit Court on December 2013, states the city is in violation of its own ordinance for unduly refusing to process his appeal to the Saugatuck Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) “based on a fabricated and erroneous claim that the appeal was untimely.” That appeal—on November 2013— challenged Saugatuck Zoning Administrator Michael Clark’s deci-sion the development was a lawful and allowable special land use on the property. Medler further requested a postpone-ment of further action on Barker’s application until the ZBA held a hearing on it. Continued Page 5...

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