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Questions and Concerns with Cottage Home's proposed marina
Posted: Mar 30, 2017

Below is the letter submitted to the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission from the Coastal Alliance asking that they deny the request for a PUD and marina development within the critical dune boundaries.

March 28, 2017

To: The Saugatuck Township Planning Commission

From: The Coastal Alliance

RE: Questions and Concerns with Cottage Home request for Special Use Permit for Marina, PUD and Site Condominium, and rezoning from R-1 to C-1

We apologize for the delay is sending this document. We had hoped to have 14 days between the submittal and the Planning Commission review.

The Coastal Alliance represents many voices that have worked for years to protect the Saugatuck Dunes from inappropriate development. This growing chorus of voices includes scientists who have studied this specific landscape for decades; lawyers and planners who understand the public policy that support our Master Plan that in turn supports our zoning laws; historians who recognize the importance of Singapore and the many stories it holds; economists who have written studies on the importance of greenspace to our local tourist-based economy; business owners, home owners, artists, high school students, neighborhood groups and civic organizations all of whom rely upon the Saugatuck Dunes for our communities’ high quality of life. Many of these voices reside, visit, or own businesses in Saugatuck Township.

We continue to believe a balance can be found between conservation design and community values. And we have spoken directly with owner Jeff Padnos about working with Richard Shaw of Design Workshop, or a similar conservation designer, about stepping back from the Planning and Regulatory phase to gather more community input in order to find a true conservation solution for development.

The Coastal Alliance, and our over 2,000 members, encourage the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission to deny the requests by Cottage Home (North Shores of Saugatuck LL) to rezone the eastern 17 acres of their property from R-1 to C-1, their request for a preliminary R-2 PUD zoning and preliminary site condominium, and Special Use Permit for a marina for the following reasons:


Clearly Against Zoning Ordinance
Section 40-337. - Management and regulation of Uses and developments in the designated critical sand dune in the Township ordinances specifically states altering the contours within the critical dune boundaries, to such magnitude as is being requested for the dredging of the proposed marina, is not permissible:
The only Uses that may be allowed in the critical sand dune area are the following:
Such noncommercial recreational uses as would not have a materially adverse effect upon the natural contours of the land and its vegetation;
Such Planned Unit Developments and special approval uses as may be approved by the Planning Commission, but only for residential or noncommercial recreational Uses.

If Cottage Home dredges up to the edge of the lot lines as shown in the site plan page 2 (between 135-200 feet wide and 1,503 feet long) the amount of land removed is approximately 4,348,380 cubic feet of earth to create a 14-foot-deep channel. Removing such an intense volume of earth will have a materially adverse effect upon the natural contours of the land. Even if they only dredge up to the boat houses as shown in the perspective renderings then the calculation is 2,960,252 cubic feet it will have a materially adverse effect upon the natural contours of the land.

If this amount of change to the natural contours of the land does not constitute a ‘materially adverse effect’ please describe what would.

The Answers Provided by Cottage Home to Question(s) 8 a & b In ‘Application for Special Approval Use’ are False

Regarding Question 8 a: How is a 49-slip marina, that requires dredging 160,000 tons of sand 14 feet deep, harmonious with the character of the surrounding area?

Currently, the surrounding area is publicly-funded designated natural areas that are habitat to threatened and endangered species. In close proximity are globally-imperiled interdunal wetlands. The closest neighbor within view of the marina is a small cottage built in the fifties (and the owners were not sent a notice of these meetings).

We are attaching a copy of a map to provide context as to the character of the surrounding area.

The Tri-Community Master Plan states clearly the character of the surrounding area:
“Although waterfront lands have a high revenue generating potential, a major attraction of both the Lake Michigan and Kalamazoo River waterfronts is their scenic, natural shorelines composed of forested sand dunes and large wetland areas. Should these natural areas be greatly damaged or destroyed through inappropriate development, then the “goose that laid the golden egg” will be dead.” Pg 8-2

“The Plan seeks to define a balance between competing uses. It places protection of the natural environment as first and foremost in making future land use decisions along the Lake Michigan and Kalamazoo River waterfronts.” Pg 8-2

“Sensitive dune ecosystems also occur in the dune areas on either side of the Kalamazoo River mouth at Lake Michigan. This area is planned for protection but details have yet to be finalized.” Pg 8-6

“Several vistas have public values that deserve protection. These include the entry into and exit from Lake Michigan on the Kalamazoo River, the view from Mount Baldhead, the view of the Kalamazoo River from both ends, and approaches to the Kalamazoo River Bridge.” Pg 8-26

“The northwest corner of the Township, along with the most of the land in Saugatuck west of the Kalamazoo lake should be preserved for public open space and the portion that remains in private ownership should be maintained for low intensity uses (like the art colony and church camp). Pg 10-7

It is true that the immediate location of the proposed marina housed a boat building facility between 1982 and 1991. During these nine years Broward built 29 yachts. Frank Denison, the owner of Broward, was given a special use permit in April 1977 for building boats (a copy of this permit was given to Planning Commissioners during the February 2017 meeting). There were six conditions, the sixth being:
“The existing green belt must be maintained and improved so as to blend the commercial buildings with the natural environment so as to make said buildings inconspicuous as reasonably possible to persons on the river and to your neighbors located to the east.”

So while a 850’ x 850’ parcel was given a special use permit for nine years, that permit has lapsed. And the building that housed the operations was removed more than six years ago. The character of the surrounding area is contiguous undeveloped designated natural areas. And community efforts have only strengthened this character, since Broward stopped operations, by placing Tallmadge Woods and the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area into legally-binding conservation easements – just as the Tri-Community Master Plan dictated:
“The northwest corner of the Township, along with the most of the land in Saugatuck west of the Kalamazoo lake should be preserved for public open space and the portion that remains in private ownership should be maintained for low intensity uses (like the art colony and church camp). Pg 10-7

The proposed marina will change the essential character of the surrounding area, especially a marina canal being dredged more than 1,500 feet north of the Kalamazoo River into a critical dune area and close to the Saugatuck Dunes State Park Natural Area.

If the Planning Commission finds the proposed marina to be ‘harmonious’ with the ‘essential character of the surrounding area’ will they please provide some context for this perspective.

Third-Party Environmental and Hydrological Impact Studies
The Planning Commission should deny the Special Use Permit for a Marina until a third-part environmental impact study and hydrological assessment can be conducted.
Lissa Leege, the scientist who has studied the wetlands of the Saugatuck Dunes for two decades, has stated, “This new development plan …. would completely change the hydrology of this special site.”
There are also several threatened and endangered species found in this area.

Sand Mining Operation
The removal of 3,000 tons of sand from within the Critical Dune Boundaries triggers the need for a sand dune mining permit. It is estimated that a marina of the magnitude Cottage Home is proposing will require the excavation of 160,000 tons of sand, nearly fifty times the amount that triggers the sand mining permits.

The Planning Commission should clarify the regulations governing this magnitude of sand removal from within the critical dune boundaries with the Department of Environmental Quality before proceeding with the permitting process.

Environmental Hazards
Given the proposed 160,000-ton excavation is for two former industrial sites a full third party environmental impact study should be conducted. Broward Marina worked with fiberglass during the 9 years they built boats in Saugatuck Township. The site of Singapore, being a large-scale lumber mill, could contain PCBs.

If hazardous spoils are discovered what is the plan for remediation? How will the marina be lined to ensure hazardous materials do not leech into the river and ultimately into Lake Michigan and onto the beaches? Given the extreme expense of disposing of hazardous spoils what financial precautions are being considered to ensure Saugatuck Township is not responsible if the developer can not afford to properly contain 160,000 tons of possibly hazardous sand?
It is worth noting that the developer has talked about moving the sand to the eastern part of the property, but there is also a significant aquifer there.

Siltation and dredging
A third-party environmental impact study should be conducted to assess the impact on siltation in the river channel. And it should be clearly defined who will pay for dredging if the proposed marina adds to the siltation of the river channel, as well as siltation at the entrance to the proposed marina.

The Discovery of Historic Artifacts
The permit should be denied until a plan is in place for when Singapore or Native American artifacts are discovered during the proposed excavation. What precautions are being proposed to ensure no damage is done during excavation.

Additional Density
Creating more than 20 spaces for 100’ yachts greatly increases density in the marina basin. Most 100’ yachts have quarters for captain and crew. These ‘residences’ should be included in the density calculations.

Impact on Existing Marinas
Granting a Special Use Permit for a marina at the river mouth, within the critical dune boundary, could have a direct negative impact on existing marinas within our communities’ designated commercial centers. A Special Use Permit for a marina outside of our designated commercial center, especially when a marina is already for sale in the commercial center, should be denied.

Impact on Navigation
Adding 49 slips, some for 100’ yachts, at one of the most congested points of the river could pose serious navigational difficulties. Before a Special Use Permit is granted a full third-party study should be conducted to ensure the safety of all boaters.

Ownership of Slips
There appear to be 49 slips total. Will slips be available for sale to individuals who do not own a lot? Will individuals be able to rent a slip? Does the number of slips correspond to the number of projected lots?

PUD and Site Condominium

Revised application not submitted in a timely manner
Cottage Home submitted their revised application outside of the required 14-day window before the Planning Commission meeting.

Piecemealing the permitting process
Cottage Home is piecemealing the planning process by not detailing their entire plan for this 300-acre project. The Commission should table the discussion/decision until an entire plan including waterfront, proposed marina, and commercial is presented. Only then will a full picture of traffic patterns and impact on the community emerge. And only then can well-informed analysis and decisions be made.
Regulatory agencies have expressed the same to Singapore Dunes when they were applying for permits. Below is an excerpt from a November 2013 US EPA letter to the MIDEQ regarding Public Notice No. 13-03-0079-P, Singapore Dunes, LLC:
“EPA is also concerned that permit applications for the proposed Singapore Dunes project are being piecemealed. The project description for Phase 1 in Public Notice 13-03-0079-P is a small part of the site that the applicant intends to construct. The MDEQ must consider the complete project when analyzing the negative effects of the proposed project. Additional impacts proposed for the site include developing 19 single family home sites, additional residential buildings, roads, and a marina. One permit application that includes all reasonably foreseeable impacts from the development, instead of several smaller permit applications with limited impacts, should be required to allow EPA, MDEQ, and the public to accurately assess the impacts resulting from the entire project.”

The concerns with piecemealing the permitting process should not solely rest with State and Federal Agencies.

Exhibit 1 of 3 that Cottage Home submitted should include the proposed lots on the lakeshore and along the channel, not to mention the commercial areas to the east.

Cottage Home’s Narrative Statements Per Ord. 40-772(3) and 40-941 are misleading
The two large condominium units mentioned within statement 6 (shown on Exhibit 1 of 3 as 39 and 40) include globally imperiled interdunal wetlands. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has already required these wetlands to be placed into a legally binding conservation easement as a condition of the critical dune permit granted for the construction of the access road.

Maximum Density and Open Space Calculations are inaccurate
These calculations include the interdunal wetlands that are already required to be placed into a legally binding conservation easement. The wetlands should not be included.

These calculations also include critical dunes slopes that would not be appropriate for development.

Is the proposed marina an acceptable ‘open space’?

Setback variances are excessive
Why would an exception be granted to the R-2 zoning Rear Yard setback of 75 feet for lots on the Kalamazoo River? The requested 50-foot setback creates the type of visual impact the code seeks to disallow. A 33% variance is excessive and should be denied.
The 12’ tall partially enclosed boat sheds are shown to be outside of the lots rather than 10 feet within the lot lines.
Code Sec. 40-277 says that No Buildings or Structures, other than docks, Piers, bulkheads, seawalls and other similar Structures, shall be located less than 75 feet from the River's Edge. The applicant should show the boat sheds, accessory buildings and all structures meet this 75-foot setback requirement.

The applicant requests a 10-foot side yard setback. This is an exception from the code requirements Sec. 40-277 requires lots with width of 125 or greater (lots 16,17,21, and 27) have no less than 15-foot side yard and the combined width of both Side Yards shall be not less than 40 feet.

Accessory Buildings must be disclosed
The Applicant is proposing set back requirement for accessory buildings of 10 feet from side and rear lot lines. The locations, size, and height of all accessory buildings must be disclosed in this application to comply with the zoning code requirements. The application discloses that “each residence will be equipped with an attached or unattached garage of not less than two stalls and not more than three stalls and that one additional detached structure of a size as determined by the Review Committee will be permitted for storage or accessory garage space”. These accessory buildings are not shown on the exhibits or requested in the application and the addition of these structures would create greater visual impact and density on the site.

In addition, the applicant must show they comply with section 40-274 of the code that states that “in the R-2 riverside residential zoned district, Accessory Buildings may not occupy more than ten percent of the area of the Parcel upon which situated.”
25-Foot Buffer at Water’s Edge is not clearly stated
The applicant should state that they will comply with Sec. 40-277 that “A strip 25 feet in width bordering the Water's Edge of the applicable body of water shall be maintained in its natural state or shall be planted and maintained in grass, trees, shrubs or other plants.”

Additionally, there are no details within the developer’s Preliminary Construction Requirements as to the flora permitted within the marina development. The developer has spoken about using native dune grasses, but the Requirements document offers no details. In fact, the Requirements document mentions ‘grading or landscaping’ plans, ‘shrubbery’ and ‘lawn mowing.’

Accessory Building Height is not stated
The applicant must state if they comply with Code Sec. 40-277 height requirements. “In the R-2 riverside residential zoned district, no Building shall have a Building Height exceeding 35 feet or 2½ Stories, whichever is less. No Dwelling having a Pitched Roof shall have a Building Height of less than 14 feet, and no Dwelling having a Flat Roof shall have a Building Height of less than ten feet. No Structure shall exceed a Building Height of 50 feet, except as otherwise provided in section 40-625(c).” And also comply with Sec. 40-631. - Accessory Buildings “limited to a height which does not exceed the lesser of 1½ Stories or 25 feet”.

Application is missing a grading plan
Cottage Home must submit a grading plan that includes the grading for the proposed channel and the boat houses. The exclusion of the grading in these locations creates inconsistency between the renderings (showing a ground floor for the boat houses), and the site plan page 2 of 3 (showing no ground floor for the boat houses). It is inconsistent how Cottage Home is showing the width of potential dredging. Clearly, in assessing the full impact of this development the application needs to include details on the movement of all earth for this development.

City Sewer as Opposed to Septic
Septic fields can create seepage and have an impact upon the interdunal wetlands. Septic fields also need to be abandoned and new ones dug every 30-40 years, depending upon the care and use of the system. The proposed development should be required to have city sewer. Ultimately city sewer will have less of a long-term negative impact upon the ecology of the Saugatuck Dunes.

Pools are mentioned in Cottage Home’s document ‘Preliminary Construction Requirements.’ How will the water be discarded when draining the pools?

The Planning Commission should make City Sewer a requirement as part of the PUD permit, anything less places our river, lake, wetlands, and beaches at risk.

Contradictions within the Preliminary Use and Occupancy Restrictions
During the Cottage Home presentation at the beginning of the February Planning Commission meeting, much time was spent by Cottage Home discussing sustainable development practices including LEED certified buildings, the use of native dune grass, the use of downward facing lighting systems to eliminate ambient light. Several sections in the Cottage Home Preliminary Use and Occupancy Restrictions appear to contradict those statements.

The following paragraph contradicts Cottage Home’s claim that there would only be native dune grass and plants allowed in the development:
8.4 Use and Occupancy Restrictions
j. Lawn Care and Landscaping. Each Unit owner may leave portions of the Unit in a natural state. Each owner shall mow all grass outside of natural areas at least two times a month during the growing season.

The following paragraph talks about exterior lighting, but does not specify the interest in eliminating unnecessary ambient light:
n. Exterior Lighting. No vapor lights, dusk-to-dawn lights, or other lights that are regularly left on during the night may be installed or maintained on a Unit without the prior consent of the Review Committee

Inadequate perspectives
Cottage Home should provide additional perspective views of the proposed development from community vantages. For instance, a viewpoint slightly above the water immediately south of the proposed marina canal in the middle of the river to represent what would be seen by boat.

Cottage Home rezoning request from R-1 to C-1

• Cottage Home is piecemealing the planning process by not detailing their entire plan for this 300-acre project. The Commission should table the discussion/decision until an entire plan including waterfront, proposed marina, and commercial is presented. Only then will a full picture of traffic patterns and impact on the community emerge. And only then can well-informed analysis and decisions be made.

• Are there other examples of changes from R-1 to C-1 just off the Blue Star Highway?
o If yes, are the changes this expansive? Greater than 15 acres?
o Has the Commission viewed this on a map of the Tri-Communities for context?

• Is the Tri-Community seeing Commercial zoning creep into Residential zoning?
o How does this align with the Master Plan?

• Does this create sprawl - the spreading out of commercial zoning outside the Tri-Community's established commercial centers?

• What kind of precedent does this set?
o Again, has the Commission viewed this on a map to see other potential 15-acres properties that could switch from R-1 to C-1?
 And what would the impact be to the surrounding neighborhood(s)?
 And then what would the Blue Star Corridor look like in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years?
• And how would those changes impact our designated commercial centers?

• How will this increase in the depth of commercial zoning along the Blue Star impact traffic patterns?
o Will it create a need for a traffic light?
 That intersection currently has five streets coming together. Adding an additional driveway might be hazardous.
o Will it create unwanted traffic through the residential neighborhood by Pine Trail Camp?
 Will expanding the C-1 zoning along the Blue Star create a strangle-hold of traffic and impact our primary commercial centers?

• Is there an actual need in the Tri-Communities for extended commercial zoning? Or could the proposed businesses be placed in currently commercial-zoned areas.

• If a small shopping district (17 acres) is created that caters to the members of the proposed gated-community how does this benefit the local established commercial centers?
o Could this potentially remove any added economic benefit to the local economy that the proposed development has promised?

• How does the area of the rezone compare to other strip malls in the area:
o How close will this move a commercial district to residential neighborhoods near Goshorn Lake. What will be the impact to the homes on Hidden Dunes Drive having a commercial district creep up to their back door
 And what impact could it have on current residents?
 lighting?
 noise?
 odors?
 what stipulations are placed upon that commercial zone?
 could the entire area be paved?
 could it house a restaurant/bar?
• What if a chain restaurant wants to develop the new acreage?
 Did the residents on Hidden Dunes Drive receive notice of this meeting?

• A 17-acre extension of commercial zoning seems extensive. Wouldn’t it be better to table this decision until the regulatory agencies decide on the permits needed for a marina? And then review the entire site plan? Rezoning at this stage seems premature.

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P.O. Box 1013 • Saugatuck, MI 49453 • (269) 857-1842 • coastalalliance@me.com