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Plans to develop huge plot of lakefront land near Saugatuck submitted to township

An Oklahoma energy executive is submitting his plansfor a new development on 300 acres near Lake Michigan in Saugatuck. Aubrey McClendon owns the development Singapore Dunes LLC.

Two plans were unvealed Friday after years of legal challenges to the development. One plan includes more than a hundred houses spread throughout the property. The second is more dense, with a 25-suite hotel, fewer houses, and a walking golf course. That plan would require several zoning variances from the township.

“Choice A is blackmail or fear-mongering if you will. And choice B is simply illegal,” said David Swan. He’s president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance– a group of residents who’ve opposed the development.

Swan says the developer is asking for so many special uses that approving them would constitute a complete change in zoning. He believes its unlikely the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals would grant the variances needed. And he believes the plan that doesn’t need special approvals is a bad business plan doomed to fail.

The developer’s attorney Jim Bruinsma says Singapore Dunes prefers what they refer to as the “open space” plan – with fewer buildings clustered closer together. He says they'd prefer that plan because it would leave more than 80-percent of the dune-land undeveloped.

“We can either do something that’s a better fit for the land or we could just follow the law to the ‘T’. It’s hardly fear mongering. It’s simply implementing the zoning ordinance that’s in place,” Bruinsma said. “It has to be economically viable.”

He expects Saugatuck Township’s Zoning Board of Appeals will consider those special requests in the next several weeks.

Back in June a federal judge threw out newer zoning laws that would restrict most development on the lakefront property. That’s because the township adopted them without giving Singapore Dunes proper notice.

While the judge approved a consent decree settling the legal case, he did not rule on the settlement agreement – a legally binding contract – the township and the developer signed. In that agreement the township and Singapore Dunes agreed the township would allow at least some of the plans outlined above.

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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