By Scott Sullivan
The Saugatuck Township Fire District Board Aug. 20 declined to pass an agenda including an attorney opinion and letter some members said were unauthorized by the board.
Township representative Chris Roerig said he had issues with claims of facts in lawyer Jeff Slug-gett’s letter, which addresses water supply and fire flow requirements for the NorthShore of Saugatuck development in the township.
NorthShore owner Jeff Padnos, working with Cottage Home president Brian Bosgraaf, bought 308 acres north of the Kalamazoo River channel to Lake Michigan in March 2017 and has proposed building 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 after a 2012 federal court settlement between the township and former landowner Aubrey McClendon.
NorthShore has proposed in addition building 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 township late last year and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Jan. 26 this year gave green lights to the basin effort.
The nonprofit Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance land-preservation group continues its years-long practice of appealing permits granted on the parcel.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has purview over waterways hydrology, is considering what may be the final approval needed to start the project.
Fire Chief Greg Janik has voiced concerns about the two standpipes, or “dry hydrants,” called for in the 2012 settlement will not provide adequate water supply to fight fires in large, modern homes now planned there, some already being built there.
The township holds that, due to the settlement, the fire department has limited approval sites involved and Deputy Chief Chris Mantels April 26 last year gave the planning commission verbal approval for the standpipes.
Meeting tapes show Mantels specified that supply was adequate for a marina but not necessarily a PUD (planned unit development) of multiple dwelling structures.
Sluggett’s Aug. 17 letter calls the township’s position on water supply “deficient” and apprises officials “this failure to obtain the required approvals rests with the township.”
Moreover, it adds, the township and developer have “a duty and obligation to the property owners and insurers of parcels in North-Shore to advise them of this material condition.”
Roerig asked who requested the letter and made it public as part of the meeting agenda without first inquiring of the full board. Janik said he did so in response to claims and documents shared by Scott Bosgraaf, Brian Bosgraaf’s brother, at the May fire board meeting.
The full board declined to approve the agenda as presented and suggested Sluggett’s letter might better be sent to the landowner. The department did so Aug. 21.
During public comment, Scott Bosgraaf said NorthShore water supply was a “done deal” and advised a long-discussed fire board of appeals involving representatives from all three district governments — Douglas and Saugatuck cities in addition to the township — get up and running as soon as possible.
The district was noticed Aug. 31 that Scott Bosgraaf’s own firm, BUILDSB, LLC, was suing it claiming plaintiff requiring him 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. (See related this week.)
The STFD discussed that suit at a special meeting Sept. 1 and a spreadsheet prepared by Janik and Douglas representative Aaron Miller identifying 107 emergency incidents since the township amended the 2015 International Fire Code as applies to it where that decision has had “a negative impact” or at least raised question among firefighters about how to handle them.
Township fire board representatives thanked them and asked these reports be presented monthly, rather than gathered over nine months, to the township board so its members can address them on a timely basis.