NorthShore Developer Threatens To Sue Saugatuck Township Fire Department & Fire Chief
On Aug. 20, NorthShore Developer Scott Bosgraaf informed the Saugatuck Township Fire District that he is suing the department and Fire Chief Greg Janik.
Bosgraaf claims that the Fire District’s fire safety requirements as it relates to his development is a “done deal” and that the department’s insistence that it is not constitutes a “taking” of his property. However, to date, neither the department nor Janik have been served with legal notice they are being sued.
In a statement that fire officials say exposed Bosgraff’s his lack of knowledge—and/or willful unawareness—about water supply, which the fire department has vehemently stated the NorthShore development lacks, the developer told the fire board at its Aug. 20 meeting that there was plenty of water supply because “the fire trucks downstairs (the fire board meetings are held upstairs of the fire department station) do carry water.”
Bosgraff also argued that fire departments from other surrounding municipalities that Saugatuck Township Fire District is partners with also carry water, and that his property “has water all the way around it (fronted by Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River).”
Fire Chief Janik and other local firefighters say it is common knowledge among firefighters and fire experts, that fire truck tankers—even considering that they vary widely from one to another—can empty their tank within a matter of minutes. When fires occur at sites where there is no independent water supply such as a fire hydrant or pond, fire departments have to supply their own water source (i.e, a dump tank that is consistently refilled by other tankers).
As for getting water from the river or the lake, Janik increduously asked,“What? Okay, let’s drive a fire truck on the beach. We can’t even drive our fire apparatus off a road or a driveway. They get stuck on the grass; imagine sand.”
Furthermore, a fire apparatus needs to be at least 20 feet from a water source, along with the need for special hoses, vacuums, etc.
NorthShores has placed stand pipes (technically referred to as dry hydrants) on the site, but Janik say they have not been approved by the department thus far.
Bosgraaf’s threat of a lawsuit comes on the heels of an Aug.17 letter from Saugatuck Township Fire District Attorney Jeff Sluggett of the Grand Rapids-based firm Bloom Sluggett, PC, to the Saugatuck Township Board of Trustees.
That letter alerted the township and the public at large that under no circumstances has the fire district given any approval of the water supply and fire flow requirements for the NorthShores development as mandated by the International Fire Code, 2015 edition which township officials adopted last November and acknowledged to be applicable.
The approval of a development is a joint effort; the Planning Commission approves it on the condition that the fire department reviews and inspects the property for fire safety requirements.
Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion did not want to comment on the issue when asked about it by The Local Observer.
Kushion has previously asserted that the fire department has limited approval on the sites, and besides, the fire department has already given its approval.
Not true, warns Sluggett.
“It is not our intent to repeat the claims of each side and to detail, in a point-by-point fashion, the ways in which the township’s position is deficient.
“To summarize, the township takes the position that the required approvals were granted by the Deputy Chief orally at a meeting of the Township Planning Commission in April 2017. The STFD’s (Saugatuck Township Fire District’s) position is that no such approval has (or could have been) granted under such circumstances,” states Sluggett in his letter.
Bosgraaf’s legal threats also come as the City of Douglas’ representative on the Fire Board Aaron Miller and Janik prepare a spreadsheet that promises to identify specific incidents where the Saugatuck Township Board’s decision last year to amend the fire code for its jurisdiction has had a negative impact on the standard procedures of the fire department.
Of the 107 emergency incidents in which the township-modified International Fire Code (IFC) is applicable, there have been 17 cases where the amended IFC had a negative impact on the standards and procedures of the fire department as mandated by the unaltered, official IFC, fire officials say.
NorthShore principals Jeff and Peg Padnos bought the 308-acre property—situated along Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River—last year. Working with Cottage Home builder Brian Bosgraaf, the brother of Scott Bosgraaf, the Padnos family proposes building 40 luxury homes on it, clustered so as to leave 208 acres in a conservation easement. That would include 23 homes around a seven-acre boat basin or marina and 15 fronting the lake.
Last year, the Saugatuck Township Board - much to the chagrin and concern of local conservation groups and concerned residents over alleged violations of local zoning ordinances—granted the owner final planned unit development and site condominium approval.
Scott Bosgraaf and Saugatuck Township Supervisor Chris Roerig could not be reached for comment about this matter.