Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

Year in review: 2021 one last time

By Scott Sullivan
Just because we’re a week into 2022 doesn’t mean our need to fill space as result of the news-starved holiday season is quite over.
Last week’s “2021 Rear in Your View” extended into mid-July, i.e. wait, there’s more. Let’s put stake in the past year’s heart before it rears up again:

Saugatuck Township agrees to settle a lawsuit with controversial ski lake owner Chad Van Horn’s daughter and son-in-law whereby it will extend an 8-inch dead-end water main via special assessment north and south under 66th and Holland streets serving their and other new homes Van Horn plans to sell and develop there.
Proposed Dugout Road and Riverside Drive improvements reach another dead end when the Allegan County Road Commission declines to pursue the Saugatuck Township Board’s latest proposed compromise that would cut trees removed to 50 from 100.
Saugatuck City Council passes a floating homes ordinance despite objections voiced in an 808-signature petition.
The good news: summer in Saugatuck has been pent-up, post-Covid busy. The bad: the same labor shortage private shop owners must labor through is pinching city hall staff too.
Cow Hill Yacht Club’s charity Venetian Festival, albeit it “Lite” version absent fireworks and official boat parade, comes back with big crowds for its beer tent and Starfarm concert, plus dinghy poker run.
Though the dust is a long way from settling, Saugatuck Public Schools plan to have Douglas Elementary renovations ready for the in-person school year to start Aug. 31.

Dune Ridge marina critic Gary Medler’s Freedom of Information Act ask from the City of Saugatuck stands to cost him an estimated $986.70, lowered by city council from the $1,422.60 then FOIA coordinator Cindy Osman first estimated based on costs to uncover, reproduce and transmit records.
The Saugatuck Township Fire District is seeking answers why its 4-month-old, $86,000 fire boat sank at its Water Street berth near Willow Park.
The Red Dock Café, an iconic Douglas gathering and music venue, is slated to close for good after this summer with new Tower Marine ownership choosing not to renew longtime operator Tony Amato’s lease.
A storm knocks down Simonson Street power lines, plunging much of Saugatuck into darkness and without internet prior to a high-summer tourist weekend.
Saugatuck Public Schools debut their new Traiblazers branding.
Works by a new artist, volunteer Kathleen Tubbergen, are painted on Wade’s Bayou well house walls.
A car backing out of a lakeshore driveway backs out too far, plunging 200 feet down a dune and requiring its pinned-in driver be extricated.
“What does it take to get a traffic light placed at Blue Star Highway and Old Allegan Road?” locals again are asking after the fifth “Crash Corner” wreck this year.
This sucks but not for the first time. Douglas and Saugatuck cities learn their third request in as many years for a state grant to help resurface Campbell Road, which runs between them west of Ferry/Park streets to McVea Drive, has been turned down.
A man observed acting erratically by eyewitnesses as a downtown Saugatuck bar, then drives recklessly away and is drowned after driving into the Kalamazoo River north of there.
A tree trimmer dies in Douglas after the boom lift he was using fails and he drops more than 40 feet, landing on cement.
The “Mr. Heule: Tear Down this Wall” signs placed apparently by someone who thinks the Dune Ridge marina fence placed last winter was illegal — by ironically trespassing on the owner’s private property — are removed.
Condé Nast Traveler readers now know what locals have for decades: Saugatuck is one of America’s Most Beautiful Towns, per an article on its website.
Saugatuck cites Dune Ridge owner Paul Heule for vilations at his Park Street marina including fencing, its electric meter, boat hoists and commercial advertising.
At a meeting attended by more than 100 people, Tri-Community Blue Star Trail Committee members and engineers layout out options for building a nonmotorized path linking Saugatuck and Douglas.

A firm hired by Douglas and Saugatuck to treat Kalamazoo Lake twice this summer for invasive Eurasian water milfoil is pleased with its outcome than some waterfront homeowners, who claim that weeds are still there.
Dune Ridge marina owner Paul Heule sues Saugatuck for breaching terms of a July 8, 2019 land swap which he claims authorized placing fencing, perhaps floating homes and more improvements there.
Campbell Road, on the Saugatuck-Douglas line leading west from Park-Ferry Street to the lakeshore but three times denied state grants, will rebuilt on the cities’ — well, several — dimes.
The 21st annual Mt. Baldhead Challenge honors first responders and other heroes of terrorist attacks 20 years ago before sending forth more than 400 runners. With sponsor support, the Rotary-organized charity event raises more than $100,000 for the first-year Saugatuck-Douglas Boys and Girls Club.
Who’s in charge of Allegan County Covid protocols; politicians or health professionals? The health department and county commissioners disagree.
The last Red Dock Poetry Reading won’t be there. Douglas’s “last hippie bar” has closed and will not reopen.
Dune Ridge’s placement of four floating homes at its Park Street marina may flow from its Sept. 10 lawsuit against Saugatuck but conflicts with a newly-passed city ordinance prohibiting them there.
The ad hoc “Caution: Dangerous Intersection” sign placed on a pole near the Blue Star Highway/Old Allegan Road intersection, aka “Crash Corner,” gets knocked down and split in half by the latest wreck there.
Douglas Elementary one of 13 in Michigan recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School.
Saugatuck city is no longer stoning the Blue Star Trail. A reconstituted council, working with a largely new staff, will act as agent on behalf of the tri-community seeking grants to complete stretches of the planned recreational pathway through them.
Saugatuck city will again seek a new clerk after Padly Gallagher, three months on the job, gives notice she will resign to attend graduate school full time.
Allegan County Covid-19 school mask orders formally end when the Board of Commissioners does not act on the county health officer’s request to extend them. But not all county schools will relax their standards.
Lifelong Saugatuck resident and former Citizen of the Year Peggy Boyce, grand marshal of this year’s July 4 parade, dies at age 89.

The first annual Interurban Cup, a Saugatuck-Douglas Rotary-sponsored miniature golf fundraiser for the new Saugatuck Public Schools chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland, goes to Holland foursomes.
The Douglas Elementary PTO’s fifth annual Rock the Walk raises more than $90,000 for school programs and extracurricular activities.
Saugatuck City Council, perhaps responding to requests for outside counsel regarding Dune Ridge marina issues, hires Grand Rapids-based Horizon Community Planning for $120 an hour to augment zoning and planning administrator Cindy Osman’s work.
Douglas’s Schultz Park and Beery Field now sport close to $158,000 work of new children’s playground apparatus, with more coming, thanks to efforts by volunteers.
Saugatuck Township moves to clean up a longstanding eyesore — Nickolas Otting’s trash, debris, building materials, junk cars and boats-cluttered lot 6354 Old Allegan Road — after he fails to meet terms to which he’s agreed. He will be charged for it via lein on his property taxes, which also are in arrears.
Jamie Wolters, a Saugatuck High School graduate who formerly managed the Douglas State Farm Insurance office and Saugatuck Gliks store, is the latest Saugatuck City Clerk.
Four queens can beat almost any hand, especially when the grand one is 100. Betty Volturno’s three daughters, joining her wearing tiaras, celebrate her centennial birthday with three days in Saugatuck.
Does Saugatuck really need holiday lights strung on downtown trees 24-7 starting in September? Former Mayor Jane Verplank doesn’t think so.
Douglas Christian Neighbors celebrates 40 years serving local people in need at its new Community Church of Douglas headquarters.
New owners of Saugatuck’s historic The Butler restaurant win city approval to create a new 2-story building and patio extension where its current dock and gazebo are.
Douglas accepts Melching Demolition’s $77,800 bid to raze the former Haworth plant and remove hazardous waste materials above grade at 200 Blue Star Hwy. But don’t look for the site to be redeveloped unless and until the city procures grants to cleanup PCBs underground.
Gerry Bekken, a longtime Douglas postmaster and fire department volunteer who was a city mainstay, dies at age 97.

Incumbents Cathy North and Jerry Donovan are joined by newcomer Robert Naumann winning two-year Douglas City Council seats. In Saugatuck, peers choose Garnet Lewis new mayor and Scott Dean mayor pro-tem.
What happened to the Rose Garden? Saugatuck city, which saw the endowment funded downtown attraction fall into relative neglect this year, rehires the same firm that has or has not maintained it for more money to do what its representatives call needed upgrades.
Douglas begins demolition of the former Haworth plant at 200 Blue Star Hwy., but lot development remains many dollars and possibly years away.
A comedian is new Douglas mayor. Jerry Donovan is voted in by city council peers over incumbent Pat Lion, who is voted mayor pro-tem instead. She votes no on both.
Thirty-year Wickwood Inn owners Julie Rosso and Bill Miller sell the iconic downtown Saugatuck bed and breakfast to Shea Soucie and Martin Horner, founders of Chicago’s Soucie Horner interior design firm.
Saugatuck Township, which June 9 asked the Allegan County Road Commission to conduct a study about placing some type of light at Blue Star and Old Allegan, aka “Crash Corner,” still is waiting to hear back. The township is also looking at installing high-visibility pedestrian signage and radar speed signs near there.
It takes money to make money. To that end, Saugatuck’s record $313,157 net revenue from Oval Beach parking passes this season, but should be taken in the context that little maintenance and low staffing there generated complaints.
One more reason to celebrate this year’s holidays is you can get there from her minus concrete barriers and construction barrels. The Michigan Department of Transportation completes its 8-month, $34-million rebuilding of southbound I-196 from M-40 in Holland to 130th Avenue in Saugatuck Township east of Douglas.
Remember 14-year Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier, whose resignation without giving reason effective Oct. 1, 2020 was sweetened by a $75,096.75 payoff owed him for personal time off accumulated through those years? He was hired soon after for $90,667.20 a year as manager of the Otsego County Road Commission.
Douglas Christian Neighbors feeds 340 needy local families via is 38th annual Thanksgiving meal distribution via area donations and packing efforts by 80-plus volunteers.

Former Douglas Mayor Pat Lion, replaced Nov. 15 in a 5-2 vote by peers, resigns from city council, asking council and staff “take a good hard look at your communication skills, or lack thereof, to effectively present information with respect no matter to whom.”
Saugatuck’s extension of a Butler Street sewer system from Hoffman Street to north of Santa Fe Trading Co. gets underway
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust fund recommends grants worth $494,700 to improve Ganges Township’s Pier Cove Park, $300,000 for Paradise Park in Fennville and $291,000 for Casco Preserve Park.
Author Peter Colvin of Douglas, known to dabble in real estate, publishes his second collection of short stories this year.
Saugatuck city countersues Dune Ridge regarding floating homes, fencing and more installed at the developer’s Park Street marina.
The 16-year disbanded Douglas Historical Preservation Committee is pursuing long-neglected city pledges to place a plaque recognizing their efforts to preserve what now is the city hall.
“On Prancer! On Dancer …” but not in Douglas. The City of the Village of Friendliness, tired of the deer pandemic, is considering offering hunting licenses in its limits. You could blast Bambi or pierce Cupid with an arrow, should it go through.

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