Out-Of-Court Settlement Reached Between Saugatuck Township & Fleming Brothers Oil Co. Over Dilapidated Sign, Property As Cleanup Begins
Saugatuck Township and the owner of the dilapidated gas station sign at the I-196 Douglas exit/entrance have reached an out-of -court settlement.
“They are cleaning up the site, that is part of the settlement. I know the sign structure is coming down today,” a pleased Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator Steve Kushion told Observer Newspapers on Tuesday morning about the legal agreement the township and Fleming Brothers Oil Co. President Thomas Fleming reached last week.
The heavy equipment present at the site, now most of it gone, is part of the cleanup process—dirt and gravel that needs to be sorted out before it is taken away, Kushion explained.
“We expect the (concrete road) barricades to be gone within the next year (also part of the legal settlement). They are a lot harder to move. “The sign was a major eye sore. Hopefully that property will get some improvement, eventually maybe even have a business move there,” said Kushion.
Indeed, the old Marathon sign has been an object of complaints by area residents and governing officials alike for years.
Saugatuck Township representatives on numerous occasions attempted to get the Fleming Brothers, through letters and phone contacts, to take the old, rusted twin-pole tower down, which is the carcass of a Marathon gas station sign removed more than 20 years ago.
Douglas city officials criticized the site as an unsightly and unwelcoming entrance to their city and the rest of the community.
The Douglas City Council called on township officials to move on the matter, to which township representatives responded by saying they were just as concerned.
Al Ellingsen, former township zoning administrator, during his tenure, repeatedly said he could not find any solid legal grounds on which to get the property owner to take the poles down because, as he saw it, they constituted a “structure” notwithstanding the fact it was merely the twin poles with no sign.
Kushion did not see it the same way and said the township did have the legal recourse to force Fleming to remove it.
“In our ordinance, if a sign is dilapidated, it must come down. Also, the sign does not comply with out height limit,” he said.
The storing of the concrete barricades on the property is also in violation of township ordinance, according to Kushion. “The warehousing of barricades is not approved use in the C-3 district,” said Kushion.
Permitted uses under that zoning includes such specialized services as gas stations, restaurants, car sales, hotels, and so on.
No reasons were provided as to why Ellingsen saw things differently.