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Locals air concerns in opposition of dune development

By Sydney Smith/The Holland Sentinel • Oct 19, 2017 at 8:00 AM

SAUGATUCK TWP. — About 150 people attended a public hearing Tuesday hosted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to gather comments on a boat basin with a surrounding road that are included in the NorthShores of Saugatuck development.

The DEQ did not make a decision at the hearing, but will do so by Nov. 5.

“We’re not going to make a decision tonight,” Cameron Jordan, district supervisor of the DEQ water services division, said at Tuesday’s hearing.” We’re here to listen to comments on this particular project.”

The basin and road are included in a development on land now owned by Jeff and Peg Padnos, which has been wrapped up in local controversy for years. Meanwhile, environmentalists have opposed types of developments of the 300-acre parcel.

NorthShores involves 23 homesites around the boat basin and seven homes in dune grass on Lake Michigan and another handful of homes.

Most commenters spoke against or expressed concerns about the DEQ issuing the permits. Some had to do with the dredging of sand, conserving natural features, multiple forms of pollution, the presence of the buried former lumber town of Singapore and water traffic.

David Swan, president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, encouraged DEQ officials to look at Saugatuck Township’s Master Plan, which outlines the importance of preserving the natural features of the area.

“Protect natural resources at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River,” he said. “That is the highest and best use.”

The DEQ is considering two permits: one for the boat basin, which also needs to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and one for a road that will surround the basin, a community building, viewing platform and boat sheds.

Swan’s comment, and several others, were met with applause from those in attendance.

Not all the comments were against the development; one gave reasons to support it.

“The marina will have an economic impact we need for our 100-day economy,” said R.J. Peterson, owner of Tower Marina in Saugatuck, adding it would generate jobs.

Amanda Reintjes, a representative of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, said the buried lumber town of Singapore, which was established in the 1800s, needs to be investigated before decisions are made.

The Army Corps of Engineers has requested an archeological review to look for indicators of Singapore, the DEQ previously told The Sentinel. However, Cottage Home president Brian Bosgraaf, developer of the project, said Singapore is between the lakefront homes and boat basin area.

Bosgraaf said excavated sand removed during the building of the marina would be used for “sand nourishment” on the Lake Michigan shoreline. According to an application filed by NorthShores, excavation of 241,750 cubic yards of sand is required for the 1,600-foot-long, 200-foot-wide boat basin.

Some argued this constituted sand mining, which could be in violation of the Sand Dune Mining Act.

Before the public comment period, Jordan said the question of whether the developer is sand mining boils down to purpose: Is the sand being sold or used for commercial purposes? Jordan said some DEQ officials have said this is not sand mining.

Others mentioned the developments would become places for loud parties for the “elite.”

Debbie Topliff, a resident of the area for 15 years, questioned why the Padnoses wouldn’t build a public area as a “legacy.”

“Citizens in America have the freedom to amass wealth and choose to use their resources, but I believe the wealthy, as privileged members of the community, and the rest of us, have to respect goals that maintain a higher quality of life for everyone,” she said.

Bosgraaf said two homesites have been sold, and others are for sale. Each homesite needs DEQ approval.

Comments can still be filed on or before Oct 27. Those who still wish to provide comments to the DEQ can send them to the state agency’s Water Resources Division, Kalamazoo District Office, 7953 Adobe Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49009; or via email to bayhaj@michigan.gov.

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