By Scott Sullivan
The new Saugatuck Township Fire District Board of Appeals voted 3-0 Oct. 18 to dismiss a developer’s claim district leaders misapplied the International Fire Code to require him to extend municipal water to 6519 135th Ave. and install hydrants there.
BUILDSB principal Scott Bos-graaf said afterward he was disappointed in the outcome, but was undecided whether to refile an Allegan County Circuit Court lawsuit claiming Fire Chief Greg Janik’s and Deputy Chief Chris Mantels’ requirements constitutes an improper imposition of a public burden on a private landowner.
The suit was filed prior to STFD partners Douglas and Saugatuck cities, plus the township, completing creation of the new appeals board.
Upon the jurisdictions doing so — naming Jane Verplank Saugatuck city representative, Aaron Miller Douglas designate and Erick Beckman Saugatuck Township representative — BUILDSB withdrew its court complaint, as it now had another appeals option.
Bosgraaf has township site plan approval to build five commercial storage buildings — one 11,700 square feet, the others 2,400 square feet each — on a commercially-zoned private easement west of Blue Star Highway and 366 feet north of 135th Avenue.
It is part of 308 acres Holland businessman Jeff Padnos bought from the Aubrey McClendon estate in March 2017, but separate from Padnos’ proposed NorthShore of Saugatuck residential development further west fronting the north side of the Kalamazoo River channel to Lake Michigan. Brian Bosgraaf, Scott’s brother, is lead builder for that effort.
NorthShore’s proposal, which includes a 6.54-acre boat basin ringed by 23 single-family homes, has received township and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approvals now being appealed by environmental groups, and still needs a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
Janik has also voiced concerns about the adequacy of fire-flow for that project, claiming two standpipes provided there in a 2012 federal lawsuit settlement between McClendon and the township will not suffice to deliver water to the large dwellings now proposed there. NorthShore claims the settlement renders the Chief’s yes-no powers moot.
BUILDSB claims its storage building project, separate from NorthShore’s on a parcel absent municipal water, falls under the township’s IFC reading, which is subject to National Fire Protection Association Standard 1142.
The developer’s attorney Carl Gabrielse argued the District is analyzing their plans under IFC Section 507, which 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.”
“In the case of 6519 135th Ave. … there is a reliable water supply main on both Blue Star Highway and on 65th Street,” Janik and Mantels said.
Miller, Verplank and Beckman all voted to dismiss BUILDSB’s appeal, saying fire officials had indeed interpreted the Code properly.
At the BOA’s first public hearing Sept. 19, Gabrielse outlined his client’s argument for NFPA 142 to apply, while the fire officials explained their reading.
Among BUILDSB’s claims are the STFD, with two municipal hose lays within reach of the parcel, its own two tankers available just down Blue Star Highway, plus mutual-aid partners with as many as 6 to 10 more tankers, has enough water supply, as furnished already by taxpayers, to fight fires at its planned development.
The District claims not so. Its own tankers aren’t always in service — sometimes out for maintenance, sometimes on other fire scenes — as is often the case with its more-distant partners’ vehicles.
Long hose lays, especially across the 5-way Blue Star Highway intersection near the BUILDSB site, diminish available water pressure and would demand more personnel on hand to detour traffic.
The board tabled action Sept. 19, asking for more information from both parties no later than Oct. 11, to study before its next session one week later.
Both provided it. Gabrielse furnished a water flow study performed by Paul Shapiro from Fire Flow Technology claiming each of the hydrants in question — one across Blue Star from the BUILDSB parcel, the other on 65th Street, could be used by firefighters in relay pump operations to achieve a 2,312 gallons-per-minute flow, exceeding IFC site requirements.
Janik questioned the practicality, based in real time, hose lays and available manpower, of those calculations and cited studies of traffic volume through the intersection.
Verplank, noting a sign on the lot says its 17 acres could be further developed for added commercial ventures, wondered why Bosgraaf wouldn’t want to establish water to it now.
Miller and Beckman concurred with her in upholding the district’s interpretation. Bosgraaf said Monday he was still weighing what he will do next.