Douglas suing marina over dredge spoil site

DOUGLAS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Last summer, WZZM 13 reported on materials stored on Tower Marine's property off Blue Star Highway, which have become a source of complaints. Now WZZM 13 has learned the city is suing owner, R.J. Peterson, claiming he violated a zoning ordinance. However, Peterson says those legal fees could be going to a better cause.

It's no secret what's under the pile of snow off Blue Star Highway-- an even bigger mound of dredge spoils pulled from Lake Kalamazoo. Last summer, WZZM 13 reported the area is visible from Blue Star Highway. R.J. Peterson has been storing the material for years, but now he says Douglas city leaders are responsible for a different kind of waste.

"I'm not sure why they're suing, the money could certainly be used for the harbor instead of spending it on lawyers," says Peterson, president of Tower Marine.

The city is suing Peterson, claiming he is violating a zoning ordinance by not submitting a long-term site plan. According to the complaint, the storage site was only 25% of its current size back in 1993. It goes onto say that residents have complained the site impacts their view and that the dredge spoils are unsightly.

However Peterson says he's actually improved the view. "That was nothing but a jungle down there with high trees, much higher than our spoil area."

The Douglas City Manager wouldn't go on camera to discuss the lawsuit but said it's meant to send a message that Peterson just like any other resident isn't allowed to violate a city ordinance.

Peterson says he can't give a specific plan because it depends on the future dredging needs for the harbor. "They want some type of definition of when things are going to happen and that's up to God."

Peterson says there's no other economically feasible place for the material to go. "At some point we all have to get on the same train." Otherwise, Peterson says the boats and the rest of the harbor will suffer.

Peterson says many other residents in the Saugatuck-Douglas also use the dredge spoils site. He expects the lawsuit to cost him about $50,000. The Douglas city leaders didn't know the amount it would cost the city.


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