“I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive.”
– Albert Einstein
What is the purpose of the May 4th millage?
The proposal requests an increase in the millage by 0.5 mills for a limited period of two years. The funds levied will be used for “enforcing and implementing applicable laws, ordinances and regulations, including associated planning expenses, and other expense for attorneys, trial and administrative hearings.”
How much would the proposed May 4th millage cost Township residents?
A home worth $200,000 would pay $50 per year for two years.
Doesn’t Mr. McClendon have private property rights though?
Yes. Mr. McClendon—like everyone else who owns property in the United States of America—enjoys private property rights, and he can do whatever he wants to do with his lands within the limits of legally passed local, state, and federal zoning laws. We live in a society governed by the rule of law.
Wouldn’t a new development build the local tax base helping Saugatuck Public Schools?
Yes and No. Since Saugatuck Public Schools is already a “donor district,” any taxes collected from any new development would have absolutely no effect on the amount of operating expenses the District receives per pupil from the State of Michigan Department of Education. Adding more houses or businesses in our community will not increase the amount of money our local school district receives per student. Nor will our school district lose operational monies if the North McClendon is turned into parkland.
However, taxes on the North McClendon do help reduce the Debt Retirement fund that pays for the debt owed for building construction projects. Please note that because of state law, school districts cannot use monies designated for facilities on anything except building facilities. These funds cannot be spent on students, operating expenses, or teacher salaries.
Was Mr. McClendon’s property in Saugatuck Township assessed fairly?
A recent editorial in our local paper featured an apt analogy for this situation: “If you can’t afford the gas, don’t buy the car.” Singapore Dunes LLC’s Tax Tribunal lawsuit is an attempt to pay significantly less than his fair share and would force many of our public services (such as the library, the schools, the fire department, the county, senior services, and the Interurban) to return money to Mr. McClendon that in some cases has already been spent on providing services to local residents.
Is it true that Saugatuck Township did not properly notify property owners of the zoning change in 2006?
The Township notified the landowners who were responsible for paying property tax–that is the legally proscribed process for noticing property owners of zoning changes.
The fact that Mr. McClendon’s representatives were paid to represent him at the public meetings would indicate that he definitely knew about the zoning changes before he finalized his purchase.
In addition, the zoning changes had been in public discussion since the review of the Tri-Community Comprehensive Plan began in 2002. The high profile of the public efforts to purchase the land on both sides of the river for preservation also made clear that many in the community felt the zoning change was both warranted and desirable.
Why were Mr. McClendon’s taxes so much higher than the Denison’s taxes?
The reason that Mr. McClendon’s taxes increased so much relative to what the previous owner paid has to do with the way that Michigan property tax codes are designed. Since the previous owner bought the land in 1954 for $60,000, the taxes were relatively low. When Mr. McClendon purchased these properties, the taxable value was “uncapped” which caused the taxes to increase significantly.
According to the State of Michigan’s webpage “Transfer of Ownership and Taxable Value Uncapping Guidelines,” the following protocols help to explain this dramatic difference: “Except for additions and losses to a property, annual increases in the property’s taxable value are limited to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. However, in the year following a statutory transfer of ownership, this limitation is eliminated and the property’s taxable value is set at 50 percent of the property’s true cash value (i.e., the state equalized value). This is what is meant by ‘taxable value uncapping.’”
Wouldn’t new development benefit the community?
It depends. Although there would be some welcome short-term benefits in terms of temporary construction-related jobs, there are also many questions. In the long-term, if Singapore Dunes LLC continues its pattern of legal bullying and filing SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suits in order to strong arm the Township, some of the advantages of these jobs could be quickly erased as Saugatuck Township residents are forced to subsidize the infrastructure of this new development. This could result in higher taxes for Township residents.
Another concern is that adding 66 new homes to an already over-built and fragile housing market will glut the supply of houses, reducing demand (and therefore the value) on existing homes. There are currently all too many sub-divisions with empty lots just waiting for new residents to build their dream homes. There are also “For Sale” signs on nearly every single block in town, including a substantial number of beautiful homes on Lake Michigan. The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance is for smart growth: directing new development towards existing infrastructure whenever possible.
There was already development on the north side of the river with a house, road, and Broward Marine, so why not build there now?
Contrary to public perception, the overwhelming majority of the former Denison North property is still undeveloped and features many of the same rare habitats, endangered species, and critical dunes found in the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area to the south and the Saugatuck Dunes Natural Area to the north.
Even though Broward Marine built 57 yachts between 1982-1998, this land was not zoned commercial during that time: Frank Denison was given a special use permit in 1977 with many restrictions on how he could use his land for a boat building operation. Despite the name, Broward Marine only constructed boats; it was never an operational marina. After Broward Marine moved their operations to Dana, Florida, the Denison boat barn was classified as a commercial building for two years to be used only as a boat repair operation. With the boat barn removed, the area is now classified and zoned as residential only.
Has Singapore Dunes LLC submitted a formal plan to Saugatuck Township?
Has Singapore Dunes LLC submitted a formal proposal to change zoning in Saugatuck Township?
Why has Saugatuck Township refused to allow Mr. McClendon to build what he wants?
Singapore Dunes LLC has not gone through the normal process like everyone else: they have never paid the fee, and they have never submitted any formal plans. In effect, there is nothing that the Township can do until Singapore Dunes LLC decides to act.
Where are the critical dunes on the North McClendon and Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area properties?
||Click here a large version of the critical dunes area map
Where are the interdunal wetlands on the North McClendon and Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area properties?
||Click here a large version of the wetlands map
Why did the Township change the zoning along the coast to R-4?
Given the uniqueness of the lands between the Saugatuck Dunes State Park and Oval Beach Park, our Tri-Community Comprehensive Plan has planned for nearly ten years for stronger protections within this landscape. The Tri Community Comprehensive Plan recognizes the economic importance of this landscape and waterscape on our regional economy. In May of 2006, the Saugatuck Township Planning Committee passed the R-4 Open Space Zoned District that allows for one home for every five acres.
Where is the R-4 Open Spaced Zoned District?
||Click here a large version of the R-4 open spaced zone map
How long has there been interest in making the Saugatuck Dunes a state or national park?
Not only has the State of Michigan shown interest in protecting the Saugatuck Dunes, but also the National Park Service began showing interest in 1957. According to its Great Lakes Shoreline Recreation Survey, the National Park Service concluded the following: “By virtue of its fine beaches and scenic hinterlands, Saugatuck has a high public use value. Immediate steps should be taken to safeguard these values in order to meet the recreation demands of this region.”
For thirty years the State of Michigan has recognized the former Denison as a rare example of a Great Lakes open sand dune eco-system. And, the State of Michigan worked with Frank Denison, the former owner, in an effort to include his land in the Saugatuck Dunes State Park.
Unfortunately, Frank Denison died before his land could be placed in the public trust. As part of their Land Consolidation Strategy the Department of Natural Resources and Environment currently includes the former Denison and several adjacent properties within the re-drawn boundaries of the Saugatuck Dunes State Park.
And, for over twenty years, the State of Michigan has recognized Sand Dunes as a unique natural feature that deserves additional protection. In 1989, the State of Michigan established the Critical Dune Act to protect and preserve these moving, shifting dunes; in part because it was recognized that many visitors to our State are drawn to exploring these remarkable landmarks.
This legislation came too late for some dunes that were exploited before these laws were passed. For example, Pigeon Hill in Muskegon was a towering 250 to 300 foot dune that is now completely gone due to sand mining, recklessness, and over-development.
What is happening with the Presbyterian Camps?
There is an organization from Chicago who is close to purchasing the Presbyterian Camp. They plan to continue to operate the camp and will not allow development.
Here is a link to their site: http://www.prescampsforever.org/.