It’s been an up-and-down couple of weeks for billionaire business tycoon Aubrey McClendon: while his Oklahoma City Thunder struggles to remain afloat in the NBA finals, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Mahoney recently ruled in favor of a plan to begin high density residential development of 200 acres of pristine Saugatuck Dunes coastland that McClendon purchased in 2006. The judge’s ruling is bad news for regional environmental groups engaged in the protracted fight to protect one of Michigan’s most prized natural attractions.
According to the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the dunes, while Judge Mahoney’s decision approves a zoning consent agreement between McClendon and Saugatuck Township, it’s easier to understand Judge’s order in terms of what it does not do:
- The Judge’s order does not approve McClendon and the township’s proposed settlement involving special variance treatment for large-scale resort development,
- the Judge’s order does not approve McClendon’s resort development,
- The Judge’s order does not prejudge the local approval processes,
- The Judge’s order does not prevent future re-zoning by the Saugatuck Township Board
In sum, the Judge’s ruling narrowly restricts the agreement between McClendon and Saugatuck Township. Plans for high density residential development will continue, though more aggressive plans for commercial development of the dunes has been struck down for the time being.