Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

Big lake neighbors seek water main


Is building water lines to Lake Michigan like taking coals to Newcastle? Not for homeowners near the big lake.

John Castro March 9 told the Saugatuck Township Board most, although not all, of his neighbors were on board for extending municipal water via a 12-inch diameter main 2,100 feet along Wiley Road from near Community Church of Douglas west to Lakeshore Drive.

The cost — there is always that rub — would be borne by a special assessment district (SAD) of parcels hooking up to it. Castro said the number of those connections has yet to be determined and could range, depending, between $24,000 and $36,000 each.

He presented a timeline and history starting in 1992 when water and sewer were extended 1,400 feet from Blue Star Highway west on Wiley around the time the church and Summer Grove subdivision were built.

In 2012, a 920-foot water main extension was paid for by private property owners, with the township chipping in for a 12-inch upsize. The result was the current 2,400-foot dead-end main with loop at the time recommended but not required, Castro said.

In September-October 2020 five north frontage parcels were sold to new owners, Castro and his wife among them, who inquired about extending the dead-end main to their properties. The township replied no further extension would be allowed unless it was looped.

Since August 2021 the new owners have circulated a petition to create the proposed SAD based on the map reproduced nearby and per-parcel estimates.

Castro said seven of nine landowners in the district had voiced support of it, but Jill Winston, owner of 40 south-fronting western acres, is working through her attorney to reduce her proposed connections from 10 to 4.

Community Church of Douglas is in the process of selling its eastern south frontage to Lakeside Pastures LLC. One more owner, Norma Greene, has not responded. “Those are current variables,” said Castro. “Our talks continue.”

Why is water needed near Lake Michigan? Consider, homes sit atop a 60-foot bluff which makes pumping up direct from the lake cost-prohibitive.

The existing main along Lakeshore Drive, engineer Dana Burd told the board, is “a cobbled-together effort of pipes between 4 and 8 inches wide” that dead ends and is cause for fire concerns given the size of homes and lawns on that stretch.

South of the proposed SAD in Douglas, Felkers neighborhood residents are lobbying the city to address drainage problems in part contributed to by Lakeshore Drive homes built upon elevated foundations. Water runs off either east into neighbor yards or west and erodes the road-hugging bluff.

“So that’s where we stand,” Castro told the township board. Wiley is a major road and system loops are expensive but very beneficial.

“Our ability to create a SAD may depend on the township participating in some of the costs,” he said.

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