By Scott Sullivan
A U.S. District Court judge May 29 signed off on a compromise between developer NorthShore of Saugatuck and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers clarifying property lines near the Kalamazoo River entry into Lake Michigan.
Judge Paul Maloney — who in June 2014 accepted a settlement between Sauga-tuck Township and former landowner Aubrey McClendon that restored the 308-acre parcel’s former zoning — last week dismissed a July 2018 lawsuit filed by NorthShore against the Corps at behest of both parties.
Maloney OK’d a stipulation agreement whereby the government has a perpetual easement to maintain and improve the channel, while NorthShore owns and has title to the land, plus permission to build residential wells and a 10-foot-wide channel walkway on it.
“That means only North-Shore property owners, guests and Army Corps workers can go on it,” said North-Shore representative Scott Bosgraaf. “It is private land.”
Maloney dismissed the suit with prejudice, meaning each party bears its own costs and fees.
NorthShore sued last summer claiming the Corps had violated terms of a 1904 agreement under which river channel walls were built and have been maintained leading to Lake Michigan.
The developer claimed the Corps, which rebuilt the crumbling north wall in 2010 and 2011 with help from $5 million in federal stimulus money, violated its original agreement signed with then-landowner Marguerite Cook by extending its right-of-way 12 to 45 feet inland from the walls.
“This is not an attempt to obtain more land to develop additional lots,” NorthShore attorney Carl Gabrielse said. “The goal of the quiet title action is simply to clarify the exact location of the property lines for the single family home sites that have already been created along the channel.
“NorthShore will not interfere with the rights that the Army Corps currently has to access and maintain the channel or its walls.
“The action was filed only after obtaining agreement from the Corps that this course of action was the most efficient avenue for clarifying the exact location of the property lines,” the attorney said.
NorthShore, owned by Holland businessman Jeff Padnos, bought 308 acres north of the river channel from the estate of the late McClendon Jan. 30, 2107.
Working with Cottage Home, a Holland-based lakefront home-building and design firm, NorthShore plans to construct about 40 single-family homes on the parcel, including 23 ringing a 6.49-acre boat basin on 95.67 acres where the lost lumber village of Singapore once stood.
Plans, said Cottage Home president Brian Bosgraaf, Scott Bosgraaf’s brother, call for 15 home sites on 35.7 acres fronting the northwest channel and Lake Michigan already approved under McClendon’s Singapore Dunes LLC for 18 homes, plus another two to four homes as allowed by right on 10.2 downriver acres northwest of Pine Trail Camp.
Seven of the aforesaid 15 lots, for sale at $1.5 million each, front the channel and are affected by the clear-title action.
The developer in 2016 won township and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approvals to proceed with its boat basin plan, but still needs a permit from the Corps to proceed with its excavation.
The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance land-preservation group, which since 2007 contested first McClendon’s plans for the land, now NorthShore’s, is challenging approvals granted and has asked the Corps to reject the firm’s application.
The developer two weeks ago finished building and paving a 2-mile private entrance road leading through gates north of 135th Avenue and west to homes on Lake Michigan.
So far two have been built and are occupied, said Scott Bosgraaf. Gas, electric, cable and high-speed internet have been installed throughout the project,
NorthShore’s five remaining Lake lots are now build-ready, Bosgraaf said.