Tempers Flare At Douglas Council Meeting Over Consolidation, Peterson Issues
As the recent consolidation referendum clearly showed, this resort community has no need for anything else to drive a wedge between its residents, but what occurred at Monday’s Douglas City Council meeting demonstrated there are some outstanding issues.
Tensions rose during discussion about the council’s decision to take legal action against one of its prominent community members and business owners, RJ Peterson, over his dredge spoil site at his marina, Tower Marine.
In another testy exchange, and even while the vote for the proposed consolidation of the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas was to take place the following day at Tuesday’s election, Douglas Council Member Bill Japinga blasted Max Matteson, leading member of the pro-merger group Consolidated Government Committee.
At one point, Japinga even used vulgar language to complain about Matteson’s activities related to his CGC efforts. It was not the first time he had expressed frustration over Matteson.
In its dealings with Peterson, the council Monday unanimously voted to have city staff file a brief with the Allegan County District Court asking a judge to order Peterson to provide complete documentation so that his dredge spoil facility is up to city standards or, if not, have that facility removed.
“It’s a strange situation; you are being taxed and you have no representation,” said a frustrated Peterson following council’s approval for legal action.
“What the Planning Commission is asking for (a complete site plan), no engineer on earth can produce,” he said.
It was a remark that caused Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley to laugh. Peterson objected and Wiley then apologized, saying, “By you stopping your project (Peterson explained he suspend all plans to expand and dredge) it has nothing to do with what the Planning Commission is asking.”
Peterson responded with, “You are letting the harbor go to hell.”
At that point, Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood took umbrage, noting she had lost her patience after trying in repeated occasions to work with the marina owner.
“I’ve been insulted so many times,” said Greenwood. “Mr. Peterson continues to represent himself as one voice, one body misleading citizens and city leaders.”
She finished by saying to Peterson, “We are done listening to you because we have been offended by you. We are done.”
City officials say they believe the dredge site property is in violation of the local zoning ordinance because Peterson has not submitted a complete site plan for the expansion of the facility he did in April 2012.
Back to the cantankerous Japinga/Matteson relationship, Japinga has repeatedly complained about Matteson’s writing a letter to the city attorney on August 16. In that letter, Matteson posed a question: Do Japinga’s comments about consolidation - an issue which Japinga differs widely from Matteson on - during city council meetings amount to “electioneering.”
Japinga was far from pleased over the letter. And Douglas City Manager William LeFevere also got involved, writing a letter himself addressed to Matteson asking Matteson, to “provide me with the specific comments on which you are basing your claim.”
Japinga also read aloud a quoted comment from Matteson from a Holland Sentinel article in which Matteson speaks to mending the strife and healing relationships with a community divided over the consolidation issue.
Japinga said he found those comments hypocritical of Matteson, saying, “I find that very insulting; when he (Matteson) comes in here (before city council) and says I approve of you and all kinds of bullshit.”