Saturday, March 17, 2012

On the air in Saugatuck talking McClendon

At the Morning Grind radio show Saturday, March 17, 2012. From left: Kristin Armstrong of the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Mike Johnson and Tom Roady.

You never know what’s going to be on the Morning Grind radio show 7:30-9 a.m. Saturdays on WYVN 92.7 FM. The show is broadcast from the Annex coffee shop at Coral Gables, 220 Water St., with hosts Mike Johnson and Tom Roady.

Here’s a sample video:

Besides Kristin Armstrong who spoke about the Saugatuck Center for the Arts and Al Weener who talked about sturgeon preservation efforts,  I was a guest this morning to talk about the proposed settlement of the Aubrey McClendon lawsuit against Saugatuck Township. I quickly realized the chasm between presenting a topic for print and web vs. broadcast. I left the radio broadcast with half-finished thoughts and awkward silences.

Here’s a quick summary of the key points I stammered through:

• The public hearing is 5 p.m. Wednesday at Saugatuck High School. The township board will listen to comments then could make a decision on whether or not to accept the proposed settlement. If accepted, the agreement goes to a federal judge who could OK it or dismiss it.

• Read the proposal yourself at It’s about 45 pages.

Radio host Mike Johnson talks Saturday morning.

• Basically, the proposal says:

The disputed zoning — called R-4 Lakeshore Open Space District that was adopted in 2006 — will change on McClendon’s land only. It would go back to the previous categories called R1 Residential, R-2 Riverside Residential and R-3B Lakeshore Transition. In the lawsuit, McClendon said he was not properly noticed of the 2006 zoning change and his property was singled out by that designation.

All development plans will follow the proper township channels, including the planning commission and zoning board of appeals. “We have to go to the institutions like any other property owner,” said Stephen Neumer, McClendon’s local representative. “This is not a special deal.”

McClendon will ask for a variance — in essence, an approval to violate zoning rules — from the zoning board of appeals to build a 25-suite inn up to 90 feet tall and construct other buildings taller than the ordinances allow. The rules allow structures 35 feet high. He would also ask to build a nine-hole golf course and 66-slip marina.

Dugout Road would be turned into a pedestrian walkway.

• The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance does not support the settlement proposal because the variances are not just minor alterations, but instead actually change the underlying zoning itself. “This settlement tries to fit a square peg in a round hole,” said Scott Howard, a land use attorney for Olson, Bzdok and Howard of Traverse City.

The dunes alliance recommends changing the zoning not through court action but through the traditional method of having the planning commission study the issue, hold public hearings then have changes approved by the township board.

• The township has spent more than $429,000 on this lawsuit. McClendon has spent more than $1 million, according to Neumer.

If the settlement proposal is accepted and approved by the judge, the township pays its own legal fees and McClendon pays his. McClendon would also pay $75,000 to the township to cover costs linked to the variance applications.

Al Weener talks about sturgeon in the Kalamazoo River while Mike Johnson, front, prepares his next question on Saturday, March 17, 2012, during the Morning Grind radio show.

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