Residents of Saugatuck Township saw a beloved stretch of open space - Aubrey McClendon saw a beautiful setting for a new resort community. And so now, what is playing out on a "majestic" stretch of sand dunes on the Lake Michigan coastline in southwest Michigan, is a conflict for the ages between regulatory land use and private property rights.
Local politics in the small community have been upended as property-tax disputes and spirited debate over whether McClendon's proposed development will be positive or negative for the area continue to play out in courts and community meetings. Funding the expensive lawsuits has not been kind to the township's budget, which officials say has forced them to consider selling the township hall and forgoing holiday decorations this year.
A showdown that had taken place at the local government level was elevated last March when McClendon filed a federal lawsuit claiming that he had been illegally singled out by the township in their zoning decision.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal:
"These opponents fear the project would mar the dunes' aesthetics and delicate ecology. Some also worry development could attract retail chains and siphon business from Saugatuck and neighboring Douglas."
"Mr. McClendon said his project would be 'environmentally sensitive' while bringing jobs and tax dollars. 'The last time I looked, Michigan wasn't exactly an economic miracle.' "