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You’ll be glad you did! * MILL POND REALTY * SHORELINE REALTORS * COLDWELL BANKER WOODLAND SCHMIDT * GREENRIDGE REALTY * SHORE SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY * FIVE STAR REALTY-LAKESHORE Presorted Standard U.S. Postage Paid Saugatuck MI Permit No. 30 CURRENT RESIDENT THE LOCAL OBSERVER WE BRING YOU THE NEWS SERVING July 8, 2016 Vol. 14 No. 28 FREE SAUGATUCK * DOUGLAS * SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP * LAKETOWN TOWNSHIP * FENNVILLE * GLENN * GANGES TOWNSHIP * HAMILTON * HOLLAND * SOUTH HAVEN There’s More To The American Legion Hall Rezoning Story Than Public Being Told Staff Report A controversy brewing in Saugatuck over attempts by local mil-itary veterans trying to have their American Legion Hall at 248 Mason St., rezoned from residential to com-mercial is not an anti-veteran effort by city officials, as some would like the public to believe. Rather, it is an attempt to prevent future illegal booze sales, ille-gal gambling, illegal pocketing of sup-posedly nonprofit fundraising pro-ceeds and having state and federal law enforcment raids mar the reputation of one the premiere resort towns in Michigan like occurred last year in Holland at a private social club. Saugatuck city officials -including City Manager Kirk Harrier -have repeatedly voiced their support for all local veterans. What many are not sup-portive of is allowing the rezoning effort which would ultimately allow a small contingent of the American Legion Hall members to have almost unfettered and unchecked activities on the premises which could illegally enrich certain members. The problem began last year when it was discovered the American Legion Hall, although located in an area primarily zoned commercial, was actually zoned resi-dential. The local veterans’ group has for years held events and rented the space to help pay its bills. When Post Commander Rob Boyce and member Don Karaus learned of the zoning issue, they immediately began the process to change the hall’s zoning. City officials have balked at the move saying it is unncessary, high-ly complicated and raises several con-cerns, including the potential for ille-gal activity by certain Legion mem-bers. Boyce’s reputation -and the reputation of most of the local American Legion members -has never been in question. But at the center of this ongoing controversy is Karaus. While one of the most vocal members to cry anti-veteranism regarding the city’s failure to rezone the hall property, Karaus’ past ques-tionable activities are really one of the main catalysts prompting the con-cern. It was Karaus at the center of another controversy a couple years ago when he headed the running of Saugatuck’s Venetian Festival and beer tent, held obstensively to raise money for nonprofit community groups and activities. Both years he was in charge, Karaus claimed little or no money was made from the events and no money was ever paid to any local nonprofit groups from the proceeds. An investigation by The Local Observer found Karaus had lied about having obtained IRS approval for the organization; his banking records were incomplete or not pro-vided; thousands of dollars had gone missing; and there was little, if any oversight by state or local officials over the supposedly nonprofit fundraising event. Saugatuck officials, as a result of the controversy, awarded the nonprofit Cowhill Yacht Club the city permit to handle the Venetian Festival/beer tent activities and in its first year -with complete and trans-parent documentation -raised more than $30,000. In another recent contro-versy involving Karaus, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC), along with other state and federal law enforcement agencies, raided the private Pioneer Club of Holland in July 2015 and found sev-eral illegal activities being run by Karaus and others which included, according to MLCC records: selling illegal adulterated and watered down liquor; selling alcohol not purchased from an authorized vendor; allowed unlawful gambling devices on the premises; held illegal “nonprofit” gambling events; held illegal raffles; etc. Authorities said they believe tens of thousands of dollars were raised for these supposed “nonprofit” events, but the money could not be accounted for. As a result, the club was ini-tially shut down and was recently fined and the illegal gambling devices and sheets were confiscated and destroyed. State authorities say they have not ruled out possible criminal charges against Karaus and others pending further investigation. State sources say they believe the real reason Karaus wants the rezoning is that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office does not allow many “nonprofit fundraisers” held in residentially zoned areas. Karaus could not be reached for comment. Harrier said even if the American Legion Hall remains zoned residential, the veterans could still hold some legal fundraising events if they petitioned the city for a special-use permit for each event. City officials could then set varying restrictions -including stricter accountability requirements -on the events. “That appears the best way to handle this,” said Harrier. Iconic Hoopdee Scootee Store Closing Its Doors After 34 Great Years! Staff Report Tears are flowing and a wealth of memories are being shared with the announcement that one of Saugatuck’s most iconic specialty stores is closing its doors this fall. Hoopdee Scootee, after 34 years as one of the most recognized shops in this West Michigan vacation mecca, will be clearing out its fun, frivolous and fascinating offerings and closing its doors this fall, accord-ing to one of its long-time owners, Neil Atherton. With partner Jim Yaroch, the two connoisseurs of convivial, colorful wonders opened Hoopdee Scootee and watched their beloved store become the “must visit” empori-um gracing the resort town. They started by filling their shop with pink flamingos and hot pink feathers and never looked back. And no one who has ever visited this storied business gem walks away without noticing -and smiling about -the pair of gorgeous gams protruding from the upstairs window signaling to young and old they’ve reached their favorite store. It’s those luscious legs -with some help from the marketing genius of Atherton and Yaroch -that really put the store on the map. First met with some deri-sion and efforts to have the sexy appendages pulled from sight by some frothy townsfolk, Atherton and Yaroch decided to fight the fight to keep their lusty legs in full view atop their business. When the legs were later stolen by some puckish pranksters, it grabbed headlines around the coun-try. The legend grew when local CBS affiliate WWMT picked up the story and it even made it all the way to the Big Apple when Connie Chung did a segment about it on the national news. The owners offered a whop-ping reward and the legs were returned, completely unharmed. Chung did a fol-low-up to the story announc-ing their safe re-emer-gence in the window! “This is very emotional for us,” said Atherton about the closing from his Boca Raton, Fl., home. “This was where all our fun began and ended. We will miss it terribly!.