Saugatuck Township Planning Commission To Hold Feb. 23 Public Hearing On R-4 Zoning
The Saugatuck Township Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on February 23 at 7 p.m. on proposed ordinance amendments pertaining to the R-4 district and designated critical sand dune area, officials recently announced.
Planners want to completely do away with R-4, residential zoning with a minimum lot size of five acres, and reinstate the prior zoning districts of R-1, R-2 and R-3.
“The critical dunes ordinance is not going anywhere, just getting amended to mirror the state’s (Michigan) language,” said Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator and Planner Steve Kushion.
The proposed changes were prompted as a way to stave off any more legal battles with oil-and-gas magnate Aubrey McClendon and his land development company, Singapore Dunes LLC, and eliminate any unenforceable zoning.
The township has so far spent more than half a million dollars in legal fees in disputes with the landowner whose 310-acre property fronts Lake Michigan and is just north of the Kalamazoo River mouth.
The Planning Commission had to postpone an earlier public hearing concerning R-4 zoning, planned for Jan. 26, due to “a small clerical error,” meaning two homes were not provided proper legal notice of the hearing date and issues, said Kushion.
For the public hearing on Feb. 23rd, township officials say this time all affected residents will be given proper notice.
The renotification and rescheduling efforts are a sign that the township is stepping with caution in its continuing dealings with Singapore Dunes LLC and its attorneys.
In 2011 McClendon sued the township over claims it had rezoned close to 400 acres he had purchased from the Denison family estates without giving proper notice, a move, that violated the law because it constituted spot zoning, argued McClendon’s lawyers.
The township claimed that the property at the time of the zoning changes was not yet owned by McClendon, while the McClendon legal team countered that the township had known about and anticipated the land purchase and as such, was legally required to provide proper notice to all impacted area home and property owners.
R-4 is residential zoning with a minimum lot size of five acres that is mostly found on the McClendon property.
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 on the McClendon property.
Because a 2012 legal settlement prohibits the township from enforcing R-4, the township’s Planning Commission sees no need for it and wants to eliminate it completely, rezoning the property back to the prior zoning districts (R-1, R-2 and R-3).
Another settlement agreement in 2013, says the township cannot enforce or apply any of its provisions regulating the critical dune overlay in a manner that is more restrictive than state of Michigan law.
“It’s a good move (the proposed changes) on their part,” Singapore Dunes Attorney and Project Manager Steven Neumer recently told Observer Newspapers Monday, about the township’s intentions.