Saugatuck Township Officials Unanimously Approve Elimination of R-4 Zoning
Without any objections by the landowner who would be the most affected and who the township has been embroiled with in numerous legal disputes, the Saugatuck Township Board last week unanimously approved the elimination of R-4 zoning as well as an amendment to the ordinance regulating land uses in the critical sand dune area of the R-3B district of the township.
“I am comfortable with the way it has been presented,” Attorney James Bruinsma told the board Wednesday. “It is your choice to make.”
Bruinsma represents Singapore Dunes, the land firm belonging to oil-and-gas tycoon Aubrey McClendon, whose 310-acre property fronts Lake Michigan and is situated just north of the Kalamazoo River mouth.
The Saugatuck Township Planning Commission approved the recommendation to the township board on Monday, February 23, but not without serious discussion.
Saugatuck Township Clerk Brad Rudich, who represents the township board on the Planning Commission, related to his colleagues that there were two commissioners who questioned the commission’s direction.
“Why should we get rid of R-4?” the two commissioners asked, according to Rudich.
The answer to which Rudich himself offered, saying, “There is no reason to have ‘ghost’ zoning that doesn’t pertain to anything.”
R-4 is residential zoning with a minimum lot size of five acres only found on the Singapore Dunes property.
Rudich’s comments echo most of a 2012 legal settlement with McClendon that prohibits the township from enforcing R-4, essentially making R-4 ‘ghost’ zoning with no corresponding piece of property that it could legally regulate.
Wednesday’s approval eliminated R-4 and rezoned the property back to its prior zoning districts of R-1, R-2 and R-3.
Similarly, a 2013 settlement agreement bars the township from regulating critical dunes areas in a matter that is more rigid and restrictive than state of Michigan law.
Last week’s approved changes by the township makes local law more in alignment with state rules.
The critical sand dunes overlay—dunes sensitive to erosion and protected by state and local regulation—can be found up and down the shoreline in the township, including, of course, on the McClendon property.
The township’s zoning changes comes as a way to stave off any further lawsuits from McClendon and abide by agreed-upon legal settlements with the oil-and-gas magnate.