By Scott Sullivan
A firm headed by builder Scott Bosgraaf is suing the Saugatuck Township Fire District claiming the district requiring it to extend public municipal water to 6519 135th Ave. and install fire hydrants there constitutes an improper imposition of a public burden on a private landowner.
The suit, filed by BUILDSB, LLC in Allegan County Circuit Court, cites the fire district, Chief Greg Janik and Deputy Chief Chris Mantels as defendants.
It requests the court enter an order that the district’s application of International Fire Code (IFC) Section 507, rather than the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1142, to the property amounts to a regulatory taking. The action seeks damages, costs and attorney fees as a consequence.
Scott Bosgraaf is the brother of Brian Bosgraaf, who is leading NorthShore of Saugatuck LLC efforts to develop housing around a boat basin and elsewhere on land owned by Jeff Padnos north of the Kalamazoo River channel to Lake Michigan.
BUILDSB has acquired Saugatuck Township site plan approval to build five commercial buildings — one 11,700 square feet, the others 2,400 square feet — on a commercially-zoned private easement that is also part of the 308-acre Padnos purchase from the Aubrey McClendon estate in March 2017 — 366 feet north of 135th Avenue.
But for zoning and building permits, the parcel is subject to International Fire Code standards as interpreted by the District.
The township has adopted portions of the IFC, which, for parcels without municipal water, incorporates NFPA 1142 on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Firefighting.
There is no municipal water in front of the property within the private easement, nor where the easement abuts 135th Avenue.
Because of this, says the lawsuit, BUILDSB’s plans must be analyzed under NFPA 1142 rather than IFC 507. Nevertheless, it claims, defendants are analyzing the builders’ plans as if the property was serviced by municipal water.
BUILDSB submitted its project site plan to the district July 12. Janik and Mantels reviewed the project and replied that although many aspects of it met standards, IFC 507 requires “an approved water supply capable of supplying needed fire flow for fire protection be provided to premises upon which facilities, buildings or portions of buildings are hereafter constructed or moved into or within the jurisdiction.”
After Scott Bosgraaf requested the district re-review the requirements under NFPA 1142, Janik and Mantels determined the standard only applies when reliable water supply systems do not exist.
“In the case of 6519 135th Ave. … there is a reliable water supply main on both Blue Star Highway and on 65th Street.” The fire officials measured the distance from the Blue Star main to the center of the entrance of the new proposed roadway for the project to be 695 feet.
Township zoning administrator Steve Kushion emailed Scott Bosgraaf Aug. 17 that the fire district would not sign off on his project until he extended a water line from Blue Star and suggested the builder use the district’s newly-established IFC Board of Appeals before exploring other options.
Although the district’s member governments — the township, plus Douglas and Saugatuck cities — are looking to establish different membership provisions — the latter board does exist, Mantels wrote Scott Bosgraaf July 27.
At the Aug. 20 fire board meeting Scott Bosgraaf repeated NorthShores’ contention that a 2012 federal court consent agreement between McClendon and the township precluded the fire district’s purview over the basin project, but urged the fire board of appeals be assembled as soon as possible to review his commercial project.
Janik said that night the district had reviewed the project three times and believed connecting to the nearby available and reliable water source was the best alternative. But it told Bosgraaf sprinkling the building or providing an onsite water supply via a pond on the land were options.
BUILDSB’s lawsuit suit, filed last week, asks:
- a) for takings damages, or
- b) if it does hold that IFC 507 applies, order defendants to analyze and approve plaintiff’s selection of an approved water supply method under IFC 507.2 rather than requiring plaintiff to connect to municipal water.
At a special fire board meeting Saturday members discussed the filing and whether the district’s regular attorney or insurance provider lawyers are appropriate to respond to the lawsuit claims.