Friday, March 9, 2012

A referendum on McClendon settlement?

Voters might have a say in a settlement agreement between Saugatuck Township and developer Aubrey McClendon.

Township Supervisor Bill Wester told about 30 people Wednesday night that he supports the idea of a referendum on the zoning issue that has cost the township hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

“I would love to see a referendum,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful.”

Some area residents have been demanding more access to the recent negotations between McClendon and the township. About 30 people attended the Wednesday meeting to ask for more input into the settlement negotiations they feel are being conducted behind closed doors.

“We must be part of this discussion,” said a tearful Janet Rund, who said she has no fondness or affection for McClendon, adding, “No tyrant should be rewarded.”

Steve Darpel, a former township planning commissioner, said more public input is needed in the negotiations.

“It feels like democracy has been hijacked in this township,” he said.

Residents have said the process that led to a first settlement proposal was closed and did not involve the community. A judge threw out that plan in November. A second settlement agreement is possible by April after the township and its attorneys have met in closed sessions.

McClendon’s company Singapore Dunes LLC sued the township in fedeal court in 2010 alleging McClendon’s property had been singled out for spot zoning in 2006.

Many residents at the Wednesday meeting, and an earlier meeting Monday sponsored by the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, a group opposed to McClendon’s development plans, want the zoning returned to what it was before McClendon purchased the land. The planning commission would then work with McClendon on how to develop the 320 acres of duneland north of the Kalamazoo River.

Voting on zoning issues happened recently in Van Buren County.

South Haven voters upheld their city’s rezoning of almost 20 acres to allow a Meijer store at the corner of Phoenix Road and Blue Star Highway.

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