SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WOOD) - A plan for major developments at the Saugutuck Dunes, which was at the center of years of controversy that cost tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars during a drawn-out legal battle, has been delayed.
Billionaire Aubrey McClendon's plan was to build a hotel on the dunes, which many in the community said would ruin the local economy.
Tuesday, the developers announced they no longer need the township to consider variances that would allow them to build hotels and other businesses on the land.
Representatives for McClendon told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday they recognize the resistance the plan faces and because of the time it would take to fight it out, they're going ahead with a scaled back plan.
"I wasn't quite clear as to why they waited so long to withdraw the request when it was quite clear from the outset that it was probably a no go," said Marcia Perry, vice president of the Saugutuck Dunes Coastal Alliance.
McClendon's crew plans to build 25 single-family homes -- at least for now.
But attorneys representing McClendon are making it clear that the high hopes for the Saugatuck Dunes are not over, calling the building of the homes just phase one of their plan.
"The special approvals that are needed to do the kinds of things that we're looking at in this marina area are going to take a long time, and we really want to do something in the short term that is fully in compliance with the zoning ordinance," said attorney James Bruinsma.
For now, McClendon's developers are starting with the plan that "should be unobjectionable," according to Bruinsma.
Representatives for those who want to preserve the dunes realize that their fight against development may be far from over.
"They may continue to fight in other ways," said Perry.
After the homes are built, developers will return, they say.
"We'll come back and focus on the other areas later," said Bruinsma. "The future is somewhat unwritten."
"Considering the history of their broken promises, there is no way to know precisely what plan they will put forth to the township for approval," said Perry.
There is still no word on when building on the dunes will actually start. The plan for the 25 homes still must be considered by the planning commission in Saugatuck.
11 fire departments from several counties were called out to a fire at an adult entertainment club Wednesday afternoon.
Holland police were searching for 28-year-old Mark Steven Randall Harris, who was considered armed and dangerous, but arrested him late Wednesday night.
Those receiving the 2013 White House holiday card will see a design made by a Grand Rapids artist.