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March 22, 2019 12:19 am

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Land Mining Project Proposal Tabled By Saugatuck Township Planning Commission

Noise, traffic, fumes, well water contamination, and the devaluation of property are all strong concerns for residents surrounding a proposed land mining project where the west end of 133rd Avenue meets with Old Allegan Road in Saugatuck Township.

“Who would buy a lot where there is a sand mining operation across the street?” Dayle Harrison, speaking on behalf of two neighboring residents, told the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission during a public hearing last week.

Harrison, who previously served on the planning commission as well as the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals, was one of a number of other folks who spoke out against contractor Top Grade’s application for special approval use for mineral extraction.

Top Grade is working for RJ Prospects, LLC, the registered owner of the 36-acre property, located in A2 residential zoning and surrounded by residential homes.
The contractor plans on digging a deeper and wider hole at the already excavated spot on the southwest corner of the parcel, previously dug up by former owner Ravines Real Estate, LLC.

The resulting pond is just under five acres in size and roughly 45 feet deep, estimated to produce about 125,000 cubic yards of dirt that will be moved about, most of it sand that is to be trucked away and sold to area contractors for building projects, according to the Top Grade application and Top Grade co-founder Ross Veltema, on hand at the public hearing to talk about the project and answer questions.

“Soil borings were completed on the site and groundwater was encountered at a depth of 25 feet. The pond is intended for recreational use as a private water body for the adjacent property. Limited impact is anticipated to the water table due to existing water perched above the clay seam,” reads Top Grade’s Sept. 19 project narrative submitted to the township.

But this brings little comfort to worried neighbors like couple Larry and Jane Dickie who said they are long-time residents who came to live in the Saugatuck area because they were attracted by the natural features and undeveloped landscape.

“Who is going to be checking if it’s (extracted material) toxic. The risk involved could be dry wells, loss of our well water,” said Jane.

Their way of life has already been somewhat sullied due to how the area at 133rd Avenue and Old Allegan Road has already been “dramatically developed,” said Larry.

Following discussion, the planning commission decided to table the mineral extraction application and wait for the review and findings of the Allegan County Health Department ) which will be conducting a hydrology study to see if the project will affect area residents’ wells and drinking water source.

“That area there (at 133rd Avenue and Old Allegan Road) does not have city water. They (any potential future home developments) would have individual wells like the rest of the people there,” Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion told The Local Observer Tuesday afternoon.

The public hearing had several items on the agenda. Besides the application request for special approval use for mineral extraction at 133rd Avenue, the planning commission that same evening also dealt with another project that involves sand extraction: the NorthShores development at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.

Notwithstanding strong opposition from individuals and groups, planners gave the final green light to that project. It is a development proposal that entails excavating more than 241,000 cubic yards of sand to create a marina at the north edge of the Kalamazoo River mouth that is being surrounded by 23 homes.

Many critics of the NorthShores development describe the marina as “sand mining,” and therefore, illegal to do at the mouth of the river within critical dune boundaries.
Kushion characterized the Top Grade extraction project as “straight up sand mining,” but not so for NorthShores development.

Asked what the difference was, he noted, “With the project at the lakeshore, they are going to keep it and use it all on site and it is not being sold as sand.”

NorthShores still needs Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approvals as it relates to the project’s impact on critical dunes and the proposed marina’s effect on navigable waterways.

The development is also subject to a lawsuit filed by Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, arguing that Saugatuck Township is not following its own ordinance and proper procedure in the approval process.

Land Mining Project Proposal Tabled By Saugatuck Township Planning Commission

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