Singapore Dunes, Saugatuck Township Planning Commission Spar Over Road Ordinance Language
Saugatuck Township’s ongoing process of cleaning up its ordinance language concerning private roads, including private access drives and internal drives, has prompted some misgiving on the part of Singapore Dunes LLC, natural gas magnate Aubrey McClendon’s local development firm.
At its Monday meeting, the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission tackled what its members said was the need to re-word confusing language in the zoning ordinance.
Provisions in the law require - aside from a primary access - an emergency access for developments consisting of more than 30 dwelling units.
The ordinance also requires a second private access for developments of more than 50 dwelling units.
As noted by Singapore Dunes Attorney James Bruinsma during Monday’s meeting, the McClendon property does not have a second private access road which would serve the proposed 91 total housing units: 19 at the western-most portion fronting Lake Michigan and 72 as part of a four-building condo complex by the old Broward Marine facility and possibly more in the future.
However, Bruinsma referred to the 2012 federal district court-approved consent agreement between the township and Singapore Dunes (which settled a lawsuit between the two sides) to assert:
“The township was prohibited by the consent judgment from requiring that (another second access road). It (the proposed language changes) creates a new requirement that didn’t exist before and now it does.”
Saugatuck Township Planning Commission Member Joe Milauckas disagreed.
“I don’t think we have changed anything,” he said. “It’s just a clarification (for the regulation of emergency access and private access roads).”
Bruinsma said he trusted the Saugatuck Township Board and the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission would adhere to the consent judgment.
Alluding to other anti-project special interest groups who have been trying to thwart the Singapore Dunes project, Bruinsma noted, “Any sort of change made to this (zoning ordinance) could be potentially exploited (by some) and cause expense and delay.”
Some Planning Commission members acknowledged Singapore Dunes’ concerns, but Milauckas said, “We are going to give this applicant every accommodation we can, but I don’t think we should incorporate wording that specifically addresses the applicant’s concerns.”
Per the advice of Saugatuck Township Planning Consultant Mark Sisson, the commission decided to refer the issue to Saugatuck Township Attorney Ron Bultje for guidance.
In a related matter, the developer currently has an application before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a special exception in critical dune areas, namely a request to partially relocate, widen and extend the existing private access road connecting at the intersection of 135th Avenue and 66th Street.
Running east-to-west to the property’s multi-million dollar beach house along Lake Michigan, the existing roadway, as its currently configured, was dismissed as a viable option because of its greater impact to the steep slopes within the critical dune area.
The developer further sought to improve the existing Dugout Road as another option, but the Allegan County Road Commission abandoned the road to Saugatuck Township which has elected not to commit resources to make it suitable for vehicular travel, states Singapore Dunes’ application before the DEQ.
The special exception request is awaiting decision by the state agency and could make the township’s actions a moot point.