Proposed Presbyterian Camp Development Plans To Be Reviewed
Saugatuck Planning Commission officials will get a chance to peruse the proposed plans of a developer looking to build new homes on the former Presbyterian camp property at Thursday night’s (March 22) meeting.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Saugatuck City Hall.
Developer David Barker of Grand Rapids wants to build 12 houses on the 91-acre property that abuts Lake Michigan.
Barker has a tentative closing date in August on purchasing the 130-acre property from the Presbytery of Chicago for a reported $10 million.
The Presbytery was forced to put the local camp property on the market to help pay off loans taken out to help cover an $11 million settlement of sex abuse claims stemming from the 1990s.
George Gray founded the camp in 1899 and built facilities to allow inner-city mothers and their children to use it as a place for respite.
In 1921 the property was sold to the Church Extension Board of the Presbytery of Chicago. A short time later, the Presbytery launched youth retreats and its camping program grew during the following decades.
The Presbytery has announced it will continue those camping programs through this summer before turning the property over to Barker once the deal is completed.
Currently the campground has 23 cabins and four platform tents that can accommodate more than 190 people, three swimming beaches on Lake Michigan and one canoe dock on the Kalamazoo River. Oval Beach and the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area are situated just north of the camp. To the south lies privately held property.
Barker’s plans for the site include building private roads with new street linkage to Vine Street intersecting with Park Street. This ingress will be in addition to the Perryman Street entrance.
His proposed housing calls for at least two acres per unit and he has said he will be removing existing buildings scattered throughout the site to make room for the new construction.
Currently, Barker is asking city offiicals for a special land-use site plan approval. That approval is needed as the property falls within a Conservation Recreation Camp district that determines where structures can be built.
The property encompasses critical dune areas.
Saugatuck Planning Commission members say they plan to hold a public hearing in April to allow input from citizens prior to any decisions being made to approve or deny Barker’s request.