Friday, March 23, 2012

McClendon hearing: What people said

A Michigan State Police trooper watches the crowd Wednesday night.

The hearing Wednesday night at Saugatuck High School drew about 150 people. Of the 39 people who spoke, 31 were against Saugatuck Township accepting the proposed legal settlement with Aubrey McClendon; eight supported the plan to end the 2-year-old federal lawsuit.

Read the main news story at:

See Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance President David Swan speak at:

Following are some quotes and phrases from the meeting. Not all speakers are identified (I wasn’t able to get all the names and many times people did not speak clearly into the microphone) and some are not included (I was tracking down other names when they spoke or was filing online updates, taking photos or video while they spoke).

John Huyge supported the settlement, hoping it would end “un-Saugatuck-like behavior” by people on both sides.

P.G. Walter said the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance wants to stop development of the duneland north of the Kalamazoo River by turning Aubrey McClendon into a “billionaire boogeyman.”

Cynthia McKean described the $429,000 spent by the township on legal fees: “It’s ludicrous to waste taxpayers’ money,” adding the planning commission should handle the zoning issues.

• A Laketown Township resident addressed township attorney Ron Bultje: “He is a waste of taxpayer money and should be replaced.” She also said McClendon has “put one over on us.”

Jane Dickie said the proposal treats McClendon differently than other land owners and  supports “harassment and bullying.”

Dick Waskin said the plan is not a backroom deal. He said this is “an opportunity to press the reset button.”

Vicki Rosenburg called the July meeting “a sham.” A nine-story hotel, she said, is “not the legacy we want to leave.”

Doug Gritter said the south side property is now in public hands and it’s time for development of the north land. “Stop the bleeding and get this thing behind us,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Fran Mervau said the township should not blame its opponents for the problems it now faces. If the township did its job properly, “We would not be here tonight,” Mervau said.

Steve McKown called the latest proposal “more subtle” than the earlier one rejected by the federal judge.  This agreement, he said, “Allows the property owner to overwhelm the ZBA” and “There’s no possible way the ZBA can handle this.” He said the agreement is set up to fail.

Fritz Royce expects the judge to turn down the proposal. “This is going to come right back from the judge,” he said, because the planning commission should be handling it.

Kathy Roper: “The ZBA will be given a nearly impossible task.”

Scott Howard, land use attorney for Olson, Bzdok and Howard of Traverse City: “I recognize and uphill battle when I see one.” The ZBA has been put in a position it should not be in.

Larry Sybesma said the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance has “cost us and the school system a lot of money” but opposing development on McClendon’s land.

R.J. Peterson said the proposal is a “win, win, win, win,” allowing the community to focus on harbor improvement; for local governments who will get more money for improvements that will benefit taxpayers; for the community to repair social damage; and for McClendon who will work through the legal process.

• A woman who has lived near McClendon’s land for 25 years called it a “lose, lose, lose, lose” for the community because the area will lose its character.

• A woman said, “These are our dunes” and the development will pollute the environment. “Please think what it might look like for the next generation,” she said.

Janet Rund: “Much of the development makes me feel sick to my stomach. ... I speak from my heart and for the wild heart of Saugatuck.”

Marcia Perry: “There’s been an incredible lack of dialogue,” she said. She plans to submit 147 serious questions to the township attorney about the settlement proposal.

John Latini said that the property has seen other variances in the past, such as the one allowing the boat factory.

James Cook: “This settlement is a backroom deal.”

Steve Darpel: “If we weren’t facing a $400,000 legal bill, we wouldn’t be throwing our zoning out the window.” He called the proposal a “travesty of American justice,” saying, “We need to slow down and listen to some other opinions.”

Dayle Harrison said 2 minutes was not enough time to talk. “You’ve got to give us time and listen more closely to what we say.”

Russ Harris address the Saugatuck Township board on Wednesday night.

Russ Harris said the meeting was a repeat of last summer’s hearing on the first settlement plan. “I hope we can all walk out as friends again,” he said.

Dave Burdick said a 90-foot tall hotel would be equivalent to building three or four Big Pavilions at the mouth of the river. The Big Pavilion was 70 feet tall, he said.

Keith Charak said the proposed hotel would be bad for the area’s lodging community.

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