DOUGLAS — The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance announced April 16 its ongoing legal strategy to oppose a development they say is putting the dunes at risk.
David Swan, president of the coastal alliance, explained during a press conference that the group is again appealing the decision of the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission’s approval of the development, and is appealing a decision from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to allow a manmade marina at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.
The marina is included in a development called North Shore of Saugatuck on land now owned by Jeff and Peg Padnos. The environmental group has opposed developments in the area for years, and has issued several appeals of the planning commission decision, but has not been successful thus far. The planning commission allowed for a planned unit development and special-use permit to construct site condominiums and a private boat canal off the Kalamazoo River.
The coastal alliance filed an appeal in the Michigan Appellate Court for a nuisance per se, saying the allowing of the marina breaks local zoning laws meant to protect the area, according to Swan. The ordinance states, “in no event shall a canal or channel be excavated for the purpose of increasing the water frontage by this section.”
The filing appeals the February decision of visiting circuit court Judge Wesley Nykamp that the coastal alliance does not have standing in the case.
The alliance has also filed an appeal of a MDEQ decision to grant a permit for the marina. The Gun Lake Tribe of the Pottawatomi and Huron Band of the Potawatomi have joined that appeal, which is on the basis of sand mining, or removing sand from an area for commercial purposes.
Swan said he is “optimistic” that a judge will agree.
“We will have standing because we have two federally recognized tribal nations that have joined our appeal,” he said.
According to Swan, Jeff Padnos sued the coast alliance seeking damages for a vexatious claim, saying the coastal alliance had no basis for appealing the approval of the marina. The lawsuit was dismissed last week, Swan said.
The coastal alliance has also started a Go Fund Me to help with its legal efforts, called “Save Our Saugatuck Shoreline.”
— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelSydney.