Hearing in Saugatuck

Recently the Saugatuck Township Planning

Commission (PC) met to review two preliminary submittals from Cottage Home, LLC a real estate development company from Grand Rapids that purchased the McClendon land after his death. A schematic site plan for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) with 23 homes and the preliminary design for a Marina with 34 slips or docks were submitted. The PUD and marina would both be owned as condominiums.

The submittals were reviewed first by the commission, then a public hearing was held and finally the PC entered a business meeting session to make its decisions. In both cases the commission decided to table the discussion until the next meeting which will be held  on Wednesday, April 26 at 7:00 PM at the Saugatuck High School Cafeteria, 401 Elizabeth St, Saugatuck, MI 49453 (note date, time and place updated since original post).


A number of issues were identified and discussed during the hearing and the subsequent public comment session. Here are a few of the concerns that were voiced.

1.The boat basin will require 160,000 tons of sand to be excavated. Part 637 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) states that sand removal for commercial or industrial purpose in excess of 3,000 tons is sand mining (637.01). However, the consultant for the developer maintained that the proposed activity would not be sand mining.


The basis for his statement was probably that the purpose of removing the sand would not be for a commercial purpose. Removing the sand in order to sell it is a commercial purpose. So is a removing the sand to build a marina that rents or sells boat slips.

The next paragraph in Part 637 (637.02) prohibits issuance of a sand dune mining permit in critical dunes. Without a permit there can be no mining in designated sand dune areas (637.04).

2.  Several in attendance stated that the zoning ordinance prohibits commercial establishments in the zoning district. Renting and selling real estate (as in a mooring facility) is practicing real estate, which is certainly a commercial purpose.

3. What is the purpose of the extra docking spaces? Will they be rented to anyone, to home owners in other parts of the overall Cottage Home development? If they are rented to people not members of the condominium does not that make the marina a commercial use, which is prohibited by the zoning ordinance?

4. Furthermore, the Waterfront Access Property does not include the area of the proposed boat basin because its perimeter would not front on an Inland Waterway, which according to the ordinance is one of the following:  Goshorn Lake, Silver Lake and the Kalamazoo River. A marina must be in a Waterfront Access Property. We believe that the proposed marina is based on fallacious reasoning to avoid compliance with the zoning ordinance, in particular Sec. 40-907 and 40-908.

5.  Several people spoke to the problems that can arise from piecemeal decision making and piecemeal permitting. If the PUD is permitted as designed but the marina and boat basin are not then certainly the PUD would be redesigned and the approvals process would be necessarily restarted. Both submittals must be approved simultaneously to avoid conflicts and subsequent changes or variances.

These issues need to be resolved before giving tentative approval and proceeding to the next steps.


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