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Federal judge rejects proposed settlement for Saugatuck Dunes

This story has been updated: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that development was prohibited on all 300 acres of the property. The story below has been updated to make the requirement for special permits more clear.

A federal judge has thrown out a proposed legal settlement between Saugatuck Township and a private developer looking to build near Lake Michigan coastal dunes.

The agreement would have resolved a long-standing land-use case. Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon owns more than 300 acres in the township, including coastal dune land along Lake Michigan. He says Saugatuck Township officials unfairly singled out his company Singapore Dunes LLC when they changed zoning rules that prohibit developmenton 207 acres of his property without special permits. He sued the township in over the zoning in federal court.

The proposed agreement would have allowed a 25-suite hotel and limited retail development. Neither is allowed under current zoning laws, but would be if the settlement is approved. The developer and the township say the settlement would not “displace” zoning rules.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, the judge wrote the settlement would “impermissibly tie the hands of future Township Boards”. He also said the agreement didn’t address McClendon’s federal claims of unfair treatment. The parties are allowed to try to draft a new settlement if they’d like.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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