ZBA To Hold McClendon Hearing March 28
The wrangle over the Singapore Dunes development proposal regarding the property just north of the Kalamazoo River mouth is far from over.
The latest dispute in the land development case that first reared its head in 2006 involves Singapore Dunes, - Oklahoma City natural gas magnate Aubrey McClendon’s local land firm - asking Saugatuck Township to deny what they say is the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance’s (SDCA) ongoing efforts to scuttle a private development project.
Currently at issue is the SDCA’s appeal before the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA.
In January, the SDCA joined local property owners Diane Bily and Kathy Wallace in requesting the ZBA reverse an earlier Saugatuck Township Planning Commission decision made December 17, 2012 that gave the green light to Singapore Dune’s preliminary development plan.
The SDCA claims the Planning Commission relied on an erroneous interpretation of the local zoning ordinance to make its decision.
The SDCA specifically focuses on the issue of open space within the critical dune district overlay, arguing that 35-percent open space is the right amount for site condominiums.
However, the preliminary plan approved by the Planning Commission has a different interpretation: 2-acre lot size on R-3b zoning on a critical dune overlay supersedes the 35-percent requirement.
That SDCA’s appeal request is scheduled for a ZBA hearing on March 28 at the Laketown Township Hall, moved there from Saugatuck Township to accommodate more people.
Prepared by SDCA’s attorney Scott Howard, the appeal says, in part:
“All (SDCA members and neighboring property owners) are concerned that there will be dramatic effects on their use and enjoyment of the area … and/or their properties due to the approval of a project that does not meet the standards required by the zoning ordinance, particularly with regard to open space and environmental protection.”
The appeal goes on to say, “Most significantly, Kathy Wallace and Diane Bily who are members of the alliance, own property adjacent to and within 300 feet of the property. Their property is home to a cottage that has been in the family since 1953 and is frequently visited and enjoyed by Ms. Wallace and Ms. Bily.
“They are very concerned about the effects Singapore Dunes’ failure to comply with the zoning ordinance requirements, including the environmental and open space protections, will have on their property, and their use and enjoyment of their property.”
However, Singapore Dunes Attorney James Bruinsma, in the recent document filed with the township, says, in part:
“Their position amounts to nothing more than a proposed taking of private property without payment of just compensation. The ZBA has no power to facilitate this unlawful request, and no further consideration should be given to the appeal.”
Elsewhere, Bruinsma claims, “A person claiming to be aggrieved must establish two things: She must demonstrate a specific personal and legal interest in the decision that is distinguished from an interest shared by the community generally; (and) She must demonstrate that this specific and personal legal interest has been injured by the challenged decision.
“The burden of proof is on the party claiming to be aggrieved to establish ‘special damages.’” Bruinsma states. “Mere allegations of some potential harm are not enough.”
He further argues that “the Bily cottage actually lies more than 2,300 feet from the closest condominium unit” and is nearer many other large, busy riverfront homes than it is to the planned development.