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Two sides at odds over development plans for Saugatuck Dunes


A stretch of sand dunes along Lake Michigan might be under development soon, and a lot of people are concerned about that. They want to protect the natural state of the Saugatuck Dunes.

David Swan is the president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance. He’s worked with a coalition of locals who want to see the dunes protected. Swan said he’s not against the idea of economic development around Saugatuck, but it should be balanced with preservation of environmentally sensitive areas.

“Protection of the natural resources, that’s our economic driver,” Swan said. “Our geography is our economy.”

But a new owner of property near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, which cuts through the dunes, wants to develop a marina and resort, with lots for houses to be built. This is just the latest chapter in a long history of proposed development plans for areas near the dunes that have been the subject of much local debate.

Swan hopes the new owners, Jeff and Peg Padnos, are willing to alter their development plans to meet the requests of locals concerned about the impacts of development on the natural landscape.

He said the preference of “many people” is to preserve the property without further development, but he recognizes it's private land. Swan said he’s ultimately hoping for a scaled-back version of the marina that’s been proposed, with more space between the proposed houses.

After talking with Swan, Stateside host Lester Graham took a a ride-along tour of the property with property owner Jeff Padnos and Brian Bosgraaf, developer of the proposed marina and housing sites along the Saugatuck Dunes.

“Our intention is truly to make this into a community asset,” Padnos said. “There will be parts of it that will be privately owned, but I can tell you in the last three months there have been more people on-site than there have been in the last three years, probably more.”

Padnos and Bosgraaf toured the property as it is today, and outlined the plans for development. Padnos said he understands there have been years of contentious debate about development plans along the dunes, but he hopes to thread the needle in a way that makes both he and the locals happy.

Padnos said when the property’s previous owners were selling, Padnos saw himself as someone who could find a better balance between development and preservation. The previous development plans included a hotel, golf course, and many more houses and condos on the property.

Listen to the full conversations with David Swan, resident of Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, Jeff Padnos, owner of the property along the dunes, and Brian Bosgraaf, developer of the proposed marina and housing sites, above.

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