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June 18, 2019 5:55 pm

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Local & Area Citizens, Environmental Group Plead With MI DEQ To Stop NorthShore Development Project Citing Harm To Lakeshore Land

More than 40 persons voiced their opposition to a proposed marina associated with the development of the former McClendon property at a two-and-half-hour-long Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public hearing on Tuesday held at the Saugatuck High School gymnasium.

“Make no mistake, this will be gaudy cottages and second homes for privileged families. There will be screaming, spoiled children and jet skis spewing oil and fumes up and down the shoreline. There will be endless traffic from the proposed marina that will ruin the character of the Saugatuck Dunes State Park right next door,” said Brady Post, a self-described millennial from Holland.

Post, like many others, said the development constitutes a “destruction” and pleaded with DEQ representatives to not allow the marina.

Many noted that the developer would be the one benefiting at the front end of the project, but it would be the community which would suffer all the negative implications in the long run.

The hearing was attended by some 200 people. Local marina owner RJ Peterson was the only person who spoke in favor of the project. The concerns expressed by those who opposed it were numerous and diverse: concerns about changes to the hydrology; disturbance of archeological sites; contamination from boats; fertilized lawns and proposed septic systems from the homes; the compromising of safety brought on by watercraft congestion at the river mouth already teeming with activity during the busy summer seasons; and the cutting down of trees to build the marina.

Representatives from the Michigan Environmental Council, the Grand Rapids office of the Michigan Environmental Law and Policy Center, the West Michigan League of Conservation Voters and the Kalamazoo River Protection Association were on hand Tuesday to express their opposition as well.

“I remind you that we (the Saugatuck area and the Kalamazoo River) are not a commercial harbor, we are a tourism harbor. All we have is tourism,” said Liz Engel.

Engel said she was a local real estate agent who does not believe in large development and comes from a family that makes a living from sports fishing (her husband owns retail store Best Chance Sporting Goods and runs a sports fishing tournament team).

“(This development and marina) doesn’t make any sense here,” she added.

Jeff Padnos, the new owner of the 300-acre privately owned duneland, is working with Brian Bosgraaf, Cottage Home lakefront builder, on the project which proposes 23 homes surrounding a 1,600-foot-long marina off of the Kalamazoo River.

Additionally, the NorthShore project calls for seven homes fronting Lake Michigan and eight along the river.

Bosgraaf told the audience that 200-acres of the property would be legally designated and protected from development.

Still, the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance has cited that the marina and the development will affect critical dune area which is protected by State of Michigan regulations (Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act).

The Coastal Alliance is an activist group that promotes conservation and has fought the development of the property for many years. The group has collected more than 35,000 online signatures voicing opposition to the North Shores proposal.

“It’s your job to protect these dunes,” local resident Fritz Royce told the DEQ representatives Tuesday. He believes—as others also pointed out—the marina project is in violation of the sand dune mining act of 1994.

The DEQ’s public comment period on the NorthShores application permit is open for the next 10 days and closes Oct. 27.

In related news regarding North Shores, last week Wednesday the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals denied, in a 2-to1 vote, Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance’s request to appeal the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission’s preliminary site plan approval for the development.

It was a move highly criticized by the group.

It was also particularly critical of Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion’s role in the process.

The group notes on its Facebook page: “The Zoning Administrator had more than three months in which to challenge our standing (the right to appeal). Instead, he waited until the last minute.

“The Zoning Administrator is trying to hide the fact that he improperly misled the Planning Commission when he ignored the township’s anti-funneling ordinance that reads: ‘In no event shall a canal or channel be excavated for the purpose of increasing the water frontage required by this section,’” the Oct. 11 online statement reads, in part.

Kushion did not respond to The Local Observer Newspaper’s request for comment on the matter.

Local & Area Citizens, Environmental Group Plead With MI DEQ To Stop NorthShore Development Project Citing Harm To Lakeshore Land

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