Michigan Dunes Developers Clash With Conservationists

Cottage Home co-owner Brian Bosgraaf poses for a photo May 4, 2017. Bosgraaf is the developer working with the new property owner of the former McClendon estate. Jeff Padnos bought the nearly 300-acre parcel in the Singapore Dunes under the name North Shores of Saugatuck LLC after Aubrey McClendon’s death. (Amy Biolchini /The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan developer who plans to create a private marina and nearly 40 home sites near the Saugatuck Dunes State Park is facing pushback from conservation groups.

The property spanning more than 300 acres once belonged to oil tycoon Aubrey McClendon, who proposed large-scale development that didn’t materialize before his death last year.

The project proposed by the land’s new owner, Jeff Padnos, and development company Cottage Home is “McClendon 2.0,” said David Swan, president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance.

The new development plan includes using a third of the property to build a 1,500-foot-long private boat basin that would be surrounded by more than 20 home sites. Seven homes are proposed in the dune grass facing Lake Michigan and another eight are proposed along the Kalamazoo River.

Swan said the development could hurt vital wetlands, disturb fish populations and historic resources, and have a negative economic impact. He also said building a boat basin would require sand mining.

“Putting a marina with 50 slips so close to the various marinas of Saugatuck and Douglas could damage the tourist-based economy,” he said.

Cottage Home President Brian Bosgraaf said the project is taking a “conservation-based development” approach, especially with the proposed marina.

“This isn’t any wetland — we’re not degrading any natural features,” he said. “As far as regulatory policies go, it’s a net positive because you’re actually creating more water and more water habitat.”

The proposed development has so far gained approval from the township. Developers still need permits for the marina from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which requires a public hearing.

Padnos purchased the property last year. Bosgraaf expected to start selling home sites in June and estimated it would be another year before the developers work on the marina.

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