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Legal battle between Saugatuck Twp and private developer could be settled outside of court

Dunes near Saugatuck
Norm Hoekstra
Creative Commons
Dunes near Saugatuck

A proposed deal would allow a smaller scale development along the Lake Michigan shore. Aubrey McClendon owns more than 300 acres north of where the Kalamazoo River empties into Lake Michigan. He wants to build a marina, condos, houses, and a golf course there.

McClendon argues Saugatuck Township officials unfairly singled him out because they banned any development on the property without special permits. So he sued them in federal court.

The proposed settlement (full document here) encourages a land use approach that does the following items:

  • Concentrates a significant portion of the development on an approximately 12-acre former industrial site
  • Conserves approximately 80 percent of the 320 acre site as open space
  • Establishes housing in clearly defined buildable areas and limits the total number of units on the entire site to no more than 100
  • Preserves the opportunity to establish public access to the property

Saugatuck Township Attorney Ron Bultje says neither of the parties would get everything they wanted under the settlement.

“It’s time to put it to bed, it’s time to end the cost for the township and I think that’s really where township officials probably are thinking that we need to at least seriously consider this.”

Stephen Neumer is a principal with the developer. He says the proposed settlement is exciting news.

“There was give and take and I think that the township was very well represented and so were we. We worked through the issues and we hope that it resolves itself.”

Residents will be able to weigh in on the decision to accept the settlement at a public hearing next month. Then the township will have to vote on whether to accept the settlement terms.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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