By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance will host a town hall meeting Tuesday, Aug. 6, in the Saugatuck High School media center from 7 to 8 p.m. to discuss why “Padnos’ Northshore Marina Should Not Happen.”
The Alliance, a 501c3 land preservation nonprofit that has worked since 2007 to contest development on what members call “The Wild Heart of Saugatuck,” plans to unveil “an environmentally-sound alternative” to what current landowner NorthShore of Saugatuck LLC is proposing.
The group will show and explain its alternative design for the land north of the Kalamazoo River channel to Lake Michigan during the public meeting that night in the school, 401 Elizabeth St., Saugatuck.
“We hired Freshwater Engineering,” Alliance president David Swan said, “to create an alternative that protects Singapore, the wetlands, water quality and provides safer maneuverability and navigation.
“Protection of the historical, cultural and ecological resources at the river mouth is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirement before issuing a permit. This practicable alternative clearly accomplishes this.”
NorthShore owner Jeff Padnos bought 308 north of the channel from the Aubrey McClendon estate in March 2017 and announced plans soon after to build around 40 homes on it, largely clustered so as to place 208.3 acres in a conservation easement.
About 17 of those lots exist by right or were pre-approved as result of a 2012 federal court settlement between Saugatuck Township and then-owner McClendon.
NorthShore hopes to build 23 homes around a 6.54-acre boat basin on 95.67 total acres, part of which were occupied by the lost 1800s lumber town of Singapore.
The SDCA is appealing Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and township approvals already given the marina project. NorthShore still needs a USACE permit before starting work on the basin portion.
The Alliance, said Swan, is one of a handful of consulting parties in the Corps’ Section 106 Historic Properties Review, whose first step is for parties to discuss practicable alternatives.
In February 2016 the SDCA hosted a town hall presentation with landscape designer Richard Shaw of Design Workshop. At it Shaw discussed similar situations involving developments at odds with some local community members.
Through scaling back proposed homes on larger lots, the revised design increased the developer’s return on investment while aligning with community values, as Swan described it. He calls the alternative marina design to be shared the logical extension of that meeting.
“We have been fortunate to work with two award-winning design firms in creating a practicable alternative that will protect those resources that drive our tourist-based economy,” Swan said.
The SDCA will also provide an update on its legal appeals scheduled for trial in August and October with Michigan’s Appellate Court and the Environmental Great Lakes and Energy (formerly DEQ) Administrative Law Court, respectively.
For more information about the group, visit saugatuckdunescoastalalliance.com and its Facbook page.