At the first meeting I covered for this paper, the Saugatuck Township board passed a new R-4 zoning applying to land near the Kalamazoo River channel to Lake Michigan.
Lawyers representing Oklahoma billionaire Aubrey McClendon, who was about to complete his $39.5-million purchase of 412 acres there from the Denison family estates, objected. They claimed the restrictive zoning hadn’t been noticed properly, devalued the property and unconstitutionally singled out this one owner.
I had come here after 13 years as an editor in Wayland. Wow, I thought. I don’t think I’m in Wayland anymore.
What comes around goes around. Many of the people who’d tried to raise money to buy what they called “The Wild Heart of Saugatuck,” only to be outbid by McClendon, were ardent supporters of R-4 zoning.
I was sympathetic to their ends: to preserve this magnificent stretch of freshwater dunes from development. But as the lawsuits forewarned of by owner’s attorneys mounted, it became clear the township would have to settle, rolling back the zoning, or face bankruptcy. “If you want to control the land, you must own the land,” said Dick Waskin, one of McClendon’s realtors, at a Sept. 29 town hall meeting held by who again want to “save” the land with help from Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund money.
For full story, pick up a copy of the Oct. 23 Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.