Readers of the Holland Sentinel have voiced their opinion on the change in property tax in Saugatuck that has an unfair effect on Aubrey McClendon. Andrea Crossman and Evonne Gritter have wrote in as reader contributor expressing their thoughts on the issue.
MY TAKE — Aubrey McClendon is standing up for his rights
Holland, MI — For months I have remained silent in response to articles in the newspapers regarding Aubrey McClendon and his fight with Saugatuck Township over rezoning his land and over-the-top property taxes. I have never met the man, but I would much rather recall the entire Saugatuck Township board than to vote to raise property taxes and give the township even more power to fight you and me and Mr. McClendon in our right to appeal our property taxes when we feel they are out of line.
The millage on the May 4 ballot would allow the township to fight every one of its property owners when they appeal their taxes, although the newspapers and the township board seem to be unfairly singling out Mr. McClendon, whom I believe is already the township’s largest taxpayer by far. As a Realtor I have seen every municipality that I deal with fight tooth and nail for all the tax dollars they can by raising property assessments and ignoring the fact that average real estate values have gone done nearly 30 percent since 2006 in West Michigan.
Some of the salient points relating to the McClendon (former Denison) property that I have tracked from reading the news articles: The Saugatuck Township board, at the 11th hour before the sale to McClendon closed, unfairly changed the zoning to severely limit what he could do with it, “downzoning” the land from one home per 1.5 acre to only one home per five acres. The township should have worked with McClendon and not against him to come up with a great plan that involved green space but still allowed higher density development and a marina on the less environmentally sensitive areas. The township also took away any rights to build within the first 100 or 150 feet from the river’s edge and to have a marina or any multi-family development. All of those uses were permitted prior to his purchase.
After the McClendon purchase, the township assessor took the taxes in 2006 (at the height of the market) while in the Denison family name from about $100,000 (on the parcels on both the north and south sides of the channel) to nearly $1 million. Mr. McClendon is now being asked to pay nearly 10 times as much in taxes on the same parcels as three years ago despite a huge decline in the value of real estate in West Michigan and stricter limits on what can be developed on the land.
This is not fair to Mr. McClendon. Taxes far exceeding $1 million could be raised if the township would only work with its property owners. And just think of how full the coffers of the township would be if it collected property taxes on the kind of business and waterfront homes that were proposed for the northside parcel.
Mr. McClendon compromised in selling the southern, more ecologically sensitive parcel to the a city/conservancy group. Now let’s see the township use some common sense and compromise with Mr. McClendon. Who knows, maybe those new taxes generated could even help keep the Kalamazoo River dredged and cleaned up?
Saugatuck Township is asking residents to pay for a fight that I not only disagree with but takes millions of sustainable tax dollars annually out of the public’s hands — money that is desperately needed for schools. Why not ask the unemployed builder who has a chance at millions of dollars worth of contracts?
Private property rights are one of the last vestiges of private enterprise that we should all enjoy. Please vote “’no” to raising a special millage to give Saugatuck Township even more power to hire attorneys to fight property owners who have a right to complain about their property tax bills and fight back against unfair zoning changes.
— Andrea Crossman is a real estate broker in Holland.
LETTER — Saugatuck Township has given Aubrey McClendon no choice
Saugatuck Township, MI — Thank you for the well-written commentary by Andrea Crossman on the opinion page Monday. I am a resident of Saugatuck Township and am very disturbed by the actions of the township against Aubrey McClendon. They have taken away both the former value of the property and then have not been reasonable on reducing the taxes on the reduced value. Their handling of this matter has left Mr. McClendon with little option but to go through the courts to protect his rights as a property owner and now they want the taxpayers to foot the bill.
This could be a great development for the township with a much needed economic stimulus for the retail stores, golf courses, harbor and schools in the area. The township should have been willing to wait for the development plan and then worked with Mr. McClendon to make it the best possible for all parties.
The township has done all the taking and none of the giving and I am disturbed at the use of taxpayer money in this way. If they want to put up roadblocks to development, then they should not come back to the taxpayers for increased taxes, as they are making the choice to cut off sources of funding.