Saugatuck Decides To Pursue Initial Discussions With RJ Peterson Over Tower Marine Purchase
What does owning a public marina entail for the City of Saugatuck?
That question was at the heart of the matter as the Saugatuck City Council decided on Monday to formally approach Tower Marine owner RJ Peterson and express interest in his offer to sell his 500-slip marina.
The popular marina is located in the City of Douglas, by the south end of Blue Star Highway.
In order to ascertain Peterson’s commitment, however, city officials are first requesting the marina owner post an escrow with sufficient funds to start the process.
That escrow money would go to cover the city’s costs associated with hiring a consultant or expert to guide the municipality in exploring a possible purchase.
That request comes at the recommendation of Saugatuck City Attorney Jeffrey Sluggett of Grand Rapids-based Law Weathers & Richardson.
For the last two years talks between the City of Douglas and Peterson about a municipal purchase of his marina have always ended at an impasse, with both sides blaming the other party for acting in bad faith.
Then, in a January 12th letter, RJ Peterson and his son, Matt, made that same offer to the City of Saugatuck for the first time.
The discussion Monday between Saugatuck city leaders went back and forth, with most council members concurring they want to at least study the varied implications of such a purchase.
Few expressed misgivings with at least taking preliminary steps in researching the idea of purchasing the marina for public use.
Saugatuck City Council Member Bill Hess, however, shared his initial concerns.
“I’m not sure it is something our citizens are interested in,” said Hess. “I don’t support it (the idea of purchasing Tower Marine).”
Saugatuck Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Trester said the idea was at least worth exploring.
“I think we need to sit down (with Peterson) and have a discussion,” said Trester.
Later in the meeting, the following exchange occurred, with all council members being respectful of the offer and the Peterson’s proposal.
“Why is Saugatuck buying something in Douglas?” Hess asked his colleagues.
“Why not?” responded Saugatuck Mayor Chris Peterson. Saugatuck City Council Member Jane Verplank chimed in with, “The question is: what are we buying this with?”
Trester, spokesperson and chair of the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority, characterized Tower Marine as an integral part of the community and playing a role in strategical planning for the Kalamazoo Harbor.
“(The current state of the marina and it’s pending future) is a trajectory… and the talk about post-RJ (Peterson is currently 90 years old) has been bumpy and with increased uncertainty,” said Trester. “It’s incumbent on us to do whatever we need to do to facilitate its future,” he added.
Sluggett, in a February 9 memo, advised the city that there are State of Michigan laws and zoning issues to take into consideration when acquiring real property outside of its boundaries, but added that it was legally doable.
He said there are a number of ways to finance such a project, for which a consultant would need to be hired.
The costs incurred by Tower Marine for the consultant, via the escrow, would be credited to Tower as part of any purchase price, Sluggett also noted.