SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Supreme Court has overturned rulings in two cases involving a contentious development on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The court handed down a 5-2 ruling Friday, with Justice Elizabeth Welch writing the opinion. She was joined by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, and Justices Richard Bernstein, Elizabeth Clement and Megan Cavanagh. Justices Brian Zahra and David Viviano dissented.

The ruling involves the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board, which decided that a group called the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance had no legal standing to appeal the Township’s decision to approve development permits on a section of sand dunes.

The plans have been in the works for years, first spurred on by billionaire Aubrey McClendon. Developers plan to build 20 high-end homes across 130 acres near Saugatuck Dunes State Park, including removing some sand dunes. The plans were continued even after McClendon’s shocking death in 2016.

The sand dunes on that property are labeled “critical” by the state, which means developers would need a specific permit from state regulators to build.

Leaders with the SDCA appealed the court rulings all the way up to the State Supreme Court, arguing that just because they don’t own the affected property doesn’t mean they can’t be an “aggrieved party.”

In her opinion, Welch wrote that lower courts repeatedly and erroneously read the term “party aggrieved” too narrowly. Welch states that appellants must meet three criteria:

“First, the appellant must have participated in the challenged proceedings by taking a position of the contested proposal or decision. Second, the appellant must claim some protected interest or protected personal, pecuniary or property right that will be or is likely to be affected by the challenged decision. Third, the appellant must provide some evidence of special damages arising from the challenged decision in the form of an actual or likely injury to or burden on their asserted interest or right that is different in kind or more significant in degree than the effects on others in the local community.”

MSC Opinion Dockets 160358 & 160359

The cases will be sent back to circuit court where a judge can formally rule on the SDCA’s appeal.