Presbyterian Camp Proposal Gets Tentative OK From Saugatuck Planning Commission
Strong opposition from local residents, those with historical, personal ties to the Presbyterian Camps and advocates of environmental protection was not enough to stop the Saugatuck Planning Commission from tentatively approving, in a 4-to-2 vote last week a proposed development on the camp property.
Developer David Barker is looking to create eight lots on 22 acres fronting Lake Michigan, just south of Oval Beach.
The property totals 130 acres for which Barker is in the process of purchasing for $10 million. He said he has no plans yet for the rest of the property, which would require both local and state reviews as well before any further building projects could commence.
Last Thursday’s (Oct. 24) tentative approval, which came after more than 2½ hours of discussion by the Planning Commission, passed with the understanding that final approval would contain conditions.
Those conditions are expected to be discussed by the commission at its next meeting before a vote is taken on final approval of Barker’s proposed development project.
Jeff Spangler, a former member of the Planning Commission and also a long-time and current member of the Saugatuck City Council, spoke during public comments. Spangler said his opinions were his own and not representative of the city council.
“I was on the Planning Commission during the revision of the Conservation and Recreation District (CRC),” he said.
“The reason for the revision was that we realized that the camp would someday be sold even though the owners said they had no intention of selling at the time.”
He continued, “We also realized that in addition to the present use as a camp we would have to include another reasonable use so as not to devalue the property if it was eventually sold or expanded.
“The law also dictated that we assign a reasonable use to the property; in other words we couldn’t zone it as ‘open space.’”
Spangler noted the proposal to build eight single-family homes on two-acre lots is a reasonable use. “It is a much lesser use than a camp. It is compatible with surrounding properties which have much smaller lot sizes.”
Spangler went on to warn the commissioners about a possible lawsuit if the proposed development was to be denied.
His comments couldn’t have contrasted more with those who spoke out against the project as well as the most vocal of the Planning Commission members, Sharon Kelly.
For example, Gary Medler, who owns a home adjacent to the camp site, noted, “The application has been filed as a single-family homes special land use. Single family homes does not mean residential lot development and residential lot development is not an included term within the meaning of single-family homes.”
Speaking to the CRC’s impact on the zoning of the property, Medler added, “To maximize preservation of the environment, the CRC District only accommodates the camp and low-density residential uses.”
Saugatuck Zoning Administrator Mike Clark completely disagreed.
“This is a low-density residential use,” he said, adding that the proposed request was 0.352 dwelling units per acre, compared to the residential density of Shorewood Association, just south of the Presbyterian site, at 0.977 dwelling units per acre.
Kelly, however, said she found the proposal to be inconsistent with the zoning standards in numerous ways.
“It threatens the crown jewel of Saugatuck in terms of the view from the beach (Oval Beach) and the view from the water,” said Kelly. “The houses are on the beach (the lakefront areas), not on the ridge. That is what you would see. This would dramatically change the property in the form of big houses. Five percent (maximum lot coverage) of two acres is a big house.”
Among the conditions for final approval is a recommended bond or other financial guarantees from Barker to ensure compliance of driveways, walks, landscaping, etc. Roads would need final approval by the local fire department.
Due to critical dune land areas, the actual building of each individual lot would need Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approval before the matter went back before the Planning Commission.
Barker is proposing to connect his development at Perryman Street, serving as the only access to Park Street.
The project also calls for a 50-foot non-motorized easement from Park Street to Oval Beach running parallel to Perrymean Street
A 16-foot private road system and driveways to the residential lots are part of the project as well.