Public Hearing On Presbyterian Camp Development Proposal Oct. 16th
Grand Rapids-based Developer David Barker is again going before the Saugatuck Planning Commission in an attempt to get his development proposal at the Presbyterian Camps site approved following a dismissal of his original plan by the commission in May.
The commission at that time rejected Barker’s proposal saying he had submitted an incomplete application.
Instead of coming in with 12 homes as his original plan called for, Barker is now proposing eight homes (constituting 22.7 acres of the total 130-acre property), at least for the time being.
The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts where the public will be able to comment on the latest proposal.
“As far as the city staff is concerned, Mr. Barker has submitted everything we need so far, following the requirements of the city ordinance,” said Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has approved the eight homes on the northernmost lots that the Planning Commission will address, while the remaining four units Barker would like to see built on the property will also have to be approved by the DEQ before going to the city, Barker has reported.
Barker has not yet officially closed on the purchase of the property - the former Presbyterian Camp located 631 Perryman St. - from the Presbytery of Chicago for $10 million.
The Presbytery was forced to sell the land in order to get out of debt, consisting of $11 million in loans, borne out of a legal settlement related to a 1990’s sex abuse scandal.
This summer a group emerged, the Oval Beach Preservation Society, advancing a backup offer to buy the land for $4.5 million if the city did not approve Barker’s plan. Just this week, the group reportedly upped its offer to the Presbytery to $7.5 million, asking that it be put in second position to buy the land should Barker’s deal not go through.
The Presbytery of Chicago has repeatedly stated it was not accepting any secondary offers for the property and remained committed to Barker’s offer.
Spokesmen for the Oval Beach Preservation Society contend that Barker’s proposal is one that is very difficult for the city to approve because it means converting Conservation, Recreation and Camp District land into, eventually, all Single-Family Residential.
The Society’s ultimate objective would be to place the land in a conservation easement in perpetuity and sell that part of the camp that is already slightly developed,( i.e., camp cottages) to Lakeshore Christian Camping.
However, the Presbyterian leadership once again on Wednesday said they would not negotiate nor consider the Society’s offer because that would compromise the church’s relationship with Barker and his proposal that is already on the table.
Barker said he plans to go back to the DEQ to seek approval of the rest of the single-family home lots, the four lots to the south constituting 14.1 acres. That would entail another Planning Commission application approval.
He said he has no plans at this time regarding the additional 90-plus acres of inland property at this time.