Saugatuck dune development lawsuit ends… for now.

13 Jun 2012

Well, it’s over…. for now.  Last year, I blogged about an ongoing dispute regarding a large parcel of dunes that a developer wanted to develop in Saugatuck on the west side of the State.  Last fall, the parties reached a resolution but the Judge in the case rejected it (here).  The federal Judge has now approved the end of a long running court battle between Saugatuck Township and Oklahoma energy executive Aubrey McClendon. The case involves the potential development of 300 acres of land McClendon owns that includes significant dunes near Lake Michigan.

McLendon claimed that by adopting a zoning ordinance restricting the development of his parcel, the Township:

  • violated his due process rights by not giving his company, Singapore Dunes LLC, proper notice;
  • violated due process by delegating its powers to a private entity (the group opposing the development);
  • violated equal protection by treating Singapore Dunes differently than others similarly situated; and
  • deprived Singapore Dunes of its property rights by its adoption of a flawed zoning ordinance.

The Judge approved the consent decree between the parties and threw out zoning ordinance, restoring the ordinance in place before the Township’s 2010 change, required the Township to treat Singapore Dunes the way they treat everyone else, prohibited the Township from accepting gifts relating to the Singapore Dunes’ property and specifically barring the Township from requiring two means of access to the property from a public street as long as Singapore Dunes implements reasonable safety measures.

While the Judge approved a consent decree settling the legal case, he did not rule on the settlement agreement – a legally binding contract – the township and the developer signed – but which was not put before the Court by the parties.  Read the judge’s full opinion here.  Under that agreement (a draft of which is found here), the developer has 90 days to apply for a zoning variance to build 100 condos, a marina and a 25 suite hotel. Certainly, the developer will do so – how the Township responds will determine whether the fight will be renewed.

I enjoy visiting Saugatuck with my family – it has a lot of small town charm. Will this development change that? I don’t know. I think the folks in Petoskey near the Bay Harbor development are generally happy to have it in their neighborhood.


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