Observer august 5, 2011 : Page 1

Opposition Groups Opposed To McClendon Deal Ask Fed Judge To Allow Their Input Page 3 Popular Douglas Mayor Renee Waddell Announces She Will Not Seek Re-Election Page 3 Presorted Standard U.S. Postage Paid Saugatuck MI Permit No. 30 CURRENT RESIDENT THE LOCAL OBSERVER WE BRING YOU THE NEWS SERVING August 5, 2011 Vol. 9 No. 31 FREE SAUGATUCK * DOUGLAS * SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP * LAKETOWN TOWNSHIP * FENNVILLE * GLENN * GANGES TOWNSHIP * HAMILTON * HOLLAND * SOUTH HAVEN

Douglas Ends Counter-Lawsuit Against Water Street Builder

Efrain Sandoval

The City of Douglas will no longer be pursuing a counter-lawsuit against a builder they hold accountable for the collapse of Water Street, between South and Randolph streets, and the $200,000 plus it costs the city to reconstruct it last year, city officials announced Monday.<br /> <br /> Nevertheless, the city will be appealing the builder’s lawsuit against it, wherein the city has been ordered to pay the builder over $178,000.<br /> <br /> Council members Monday night approved dropping the counterclaim after first holding a closed session with City Attorney Mike Bogren.<br /> <br /> The counter-claim sought to recover the cost for repairing the road’s eroding east-side embankment,Damage the city claims, was caused by builder Chandler Kalkman’s shoddy attempt at constructing a home - now left as a carcass - too close to the slope, compromising the soil conditions and causing it to sink.<br /> <br /> “Our attorney told us that the likelihood of recovering anything from Mr. Kalkman would be highly unlikely. He no longer owns the property; it has reverted to the bank,” said Douglas City Manager William LeFevere.<br /> <br /> “It was the best decision council could make. It would cost the city more money to pursue it than the city could ever benefit from,” said Douglas Mayor Renee Waddell.<br /> <br /> Nevertheless, the city’s legal issues with the builder are not over.<br /> <br /> In May 2009 Allegan County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Cronin ruled the city’s issuance of a stop-work order against Kalkman four years before constituted a regulatory Taking, thereby giving the builder entitlement to compensation for damages.<br /> <br /> The city’s July, 2007 stopwork order claimed Kalkman’s plans violated zoning ordinance.<br /> <br /> Kalkman sued the city and the city sued back, saying the sinking road was due to the construction.<br /> <br /> Still, in 2010, Cronin decided the amount the city owed the builder, as result of the stop-work order, would amount to more $178,000.<br /> <br /> Notwithstanding backing off from the counter-claim, the city will be appealing that ruling before Cronin.<br /> <br /> “We still think the ruling on the taking was judged wrong.There is an issue there and we plan on appealing it,” said LeFevere.<br /> <br /> The $200,000 reconstruction project constituted 190 feet of road and 175 feet of retaining wall.

McClendon Opponents Ask To Have Say In Fed Lawsuit Settlement Deal

Efrain Sandoval

Three local community groups are asking a federal judge to hear them out before he makes his final decision on the proposed legal settlement between Saugatuck Township and Oklahoma City natural gas magnate Aubrey McClendon over local land-use issues.<br /> <br /> Last Friday Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance (SDCA), a long-standing, staunch opponent of McClendon’s plans for his property; Laketown Alliance for Neighborly Development (LAND); and the Kalamazoo River Protection Association filed a petition with the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids asking for a formal, legal fairness hearing on the proposed settlement.<br /> <br /> The announcement came at a press conference Monday put on by the groups at the Old School House on Center Street in the City of Douglas.<br /> <br /> The groups’ leaders said the proposed settlement gets around local zoning laws and that Saugatuck Township officials had accepted the settlement under Much pressure due to seemingly endless litigation and ensuing legal costs.<br /> <br /> Saugatuck Township and the McClendon legal team recently submitted the proposed settlement for final approval by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney.<br /> <br /> The township board voted to accept the settlement agreement with McClendon following a public hearing, attended by more than an estimated 450 people, on Friday, July 22. <br /> <br /> The board made its decision after listening to more than three hours of public input. An agreement would solve five years of legal battles between the parties over various landuse issues related to the property and its planned development.<br /> <br /> “We have taken this step as we believe that this proposed consent decree is illegal because it circumvents local zoning laws, violates the statemandated rezoning process and blocks the Saugatuck Township Board’s oversight of the development,” said Sheldon Wettack, treasurer for the SDCA.<br /> <br /> Wettack was part of the press conference along with Pam O’Connor of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Steve McKown, a township resident and an attorney who said he did not represent any party, but was highly concerned about what he said was a deeply flawed, one-sided federal lawsuit.<br /> <br /> “I attended both public hearings of the Saugatuck Township and what concerns me is that there was no explanation by the township board why they were doing what they were doing,” said McKown. <br /> <br /> He said that the proposed agreement as a whole, as opposed to the visual references provided in the exhibits provided by McClendon’s team as part of the legal settlement, would in reality allow McClendon’s proposed buildings and constructions To be built anywhere within his 320- acre property, not in the various zones the duneland is proposed to be divided into.<br /> <br /> This includes the proposed 25-suite hotel, up to 100 homes, a 66-slip marina, a nine-hole golf course, equestrian center and limited retail development to service guests, he said.<br /> <br /> “The proposal is so lopsided on the side of the developer, frankly it’s shocking,” he said.<br /> <br /> McClendon’s attorneys counter, in court documents, that the groups filing for the fairness hearing “are not parties to this case,” and as such, lack any grounds for what they are asking.<br /> <br /> “We believe the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, reasonable and consistent with the public interest,” said Andy Guy, spokesperson for McClendon and director of the Metropolitan and Environmental Initiatives.

Popular Douglas Mayor Renee Waddell Says She Will Not Seek Re-Election

Efrain Sandoval

After serving for almost seven years on several local City of Douglas government boards and various seats - the Douglas Downtown Development Authority, Planning Commission, Master Plan Committee, City Council Mayor Renee Waddell is ready to step down.<br /> <br /> Her announcement came at Monday night’s council meeting where she read from a prepared statement, saying, in part:<br /> <br /> “This decision (not to run for re-election in November) was very difficult to make with issues on both sides. It has been rewarding growing up in Douglas. I have always known the city’s history, but not until serving on council did I know about its operations and its finances.<br /> <br /> “Also, it has been a pleasure identifying community needs and determining priorities, but after dedicating a substantial commitment of time and effort to shape the future of the community, simply put, I feel without the passion I once had and feel it’s best to separate for the sake of Douglas.” <br /> <br /> Waddell was selected by her colleagues in 2009 to replace former Mayor Matt Balmer’s after his thensudden and unexpected resignation.<br /> <br /> For the first time in its short cityhood existence, the city could boast it had a female mayor, a fact many council members took great pride in.<br /> <br /> Her colleagues were pleased with her as mayor because following Waddell’s re-election in the November 3, 2009 general election, they unanimously nominated her to be mayor for the next two years of her term.<br /> <br /> During her city council tenure, Waddell took part in significant historical events, including the reconstruction of Center Street, improvements at the intersection of Center and Water streets, the removal of the Old School House from the tax rolls for the sake of preservation, the selling of the library building so as to guarantee the library’s stay within the City of Douglas, and the re-staffing of almost the entire city hall.<br /> <br /> “I have enjoyed serving my city with this council,” said Waddell.“I love, admire and respect each council member very much. They are intelligent, loyal, and most critically apply integrity in every legislative decision they make for our city,” she said.

Gust Case Special Report Delayed

A special Observer Newspapers’ report on the developments, issues and local and statewide impact of the recent case involving fired Saugatuck Public Schools’ Technology Director Paul Gust and the Saugatuck Public Schools’ Board of Education, has been delayed pending a Michigan Administrative Law Judge’s final closure of the matter.<br /> <br /> The Gust case has deeply affected local school officials, parents, taxpayers and students and will have an impact on how such cases are handled in the future, according to Michigan Department of Education officials.<br /> <br /> An expected release date of the Observer special report should be within two to three weeks.

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