Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wednesday Meeting Critical for Saugatuck's Denison Dunes

Saugatuck Dunes
view of the Lake Michigan property near Saugatuck
photo credit: Dan Irving/The Holland Sentinel
Another west Michigan battle of the preservationists vs the developers is shaping up near Saugatuck. Wednesday's Saugatuck Township Board meeting is a key piece of what will happen next.

A 413-acre tract of land which spans Lake Michigan beach between Saugatuck's Oval Beach on the south and Saugatuck Dunes State Park on the north is the issue. The property formerly belonged to Frank and Gertrude Denison, thus it is often referred to as the Denison property. The Kalamazoo River divides the property into two sections commonly referred to as the north and south parcels.

Now, Oklahoma billionaire Aubrey McClendon has purchased the property and wishes to develop it. He is sueing the township over zoning changes made before his purchase was finalized. Those changes reduced the number of houses which can be built on the property from over 250 to 83.

The township is proposing a settlement which allows the original zoning to be an option for one year. After that time, if no development proposal is approved the newer, restrictive zoning would take effect.

The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, a conservation group, has offered free legal services to the township to fight the lawsuits instead of settling them.

The lawyer for the developer says that their plan will preserve conservation set-asides, and that the area will "still look and feel like Saugatuck." The Dunes Coastal Alliance spokesman says that the township is caving in to demands, and asserts that if the township turns down any development proposal the developer will simply sue in a higher court.

For years, local residents and conservation groups have tried to preserve the duneland. It was standing room only at a December 5 township board meeting. The township decided at that meeting to delay its decision in order to give everyone more time to study the issue.

The follow-up meeting is this Wednesday, December 19, 2007. It will be held at Saugatuck High School, 401 Elizabeth St, at 7 pm.

The proposed settlement agreement can be seen by following the link below.

see Holland Sentinel, "Saugatuck Township delays decision on former Denison property", Dec 7, 2007
see Holland Sentinel, "Development decision", Dec 16, 2007
read the proposed Settlement Agreement from Saugatuck Township (a pdf file)
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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