Huyser House demolition starting with asbestos survey

The parks commission estimates teardown will be in about a month and a half.
The Huyser House on 64th Street at 142nd Avenue in Laketown Township.

The demolition plans for the Huyser House have begun with a survey of the asbestos in the empty home. The actual teardown could happen in about a month-and-a-half, though the timeline isn’t set yet.

Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission Chairperson Brad Laninga updated the commission Wednesday, March 20, on the demolition process.

The asbestos survey is the first step, Laninga said. Brett Grams, facilities operations for the township, will make sure utility services are disconnected and crews from Specialized Demolition Inc. will cap the well and pump the septic tank.

A demolition permit must be secured from the township.

Laninga has also been in touch with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, the group that holds a perpetual easement on the property to keep the area in a natural, scenic and agricultural state to protect natural habitats of fish, wildlife, plants and the ecosystems that support them. Any changes to the land must follow the terms of the easement. The conservancy said all the demolished material must be removed from the site. It cannot be used for fill, according to Laninga.

About the house

The 1939 house of Manuel and Lilah Huyser came with the donation of the 102 acres that make up Huyser Farm Park at the corner of 142nd Avenue and 64th Street. Since the township acquired the land in 2001, the house has been empty, and the parks commission has not been able to settle on a use for the home.

On March 13, the township board approved a demolition bid of $29,845 from Specialized Demolition Inc., 3793 136th Ave. in Hamilton, to remove the house.

The Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission. Front from left: Dick Becker and Chairperson Brad Laninga. Back from left: Treasurer Anne Brand and Tom Hoekman. Not pictured: Vice Chairperson Karen Simmons.

Commission comments

Parks commissioners on Wednesday said they were sad the house will be demolished.

“This has been a long time in coming. Too long,” Laninga said. “I’m saddened to have to tear it down.”

Commissioner Anne Brand wished something could have been done earlier to save the house.

“While this decision makes me sad, it was not a decision we took lightly, and that this is a health and safety issue,” she said.

“It’s hard when a place you loved and have great memories of gets torn down,” she said. “I respect that this is definitely hard for some people.”

She made reference to resident Steve Ringelberg who proposed leasing the Huyser House from the township, restoring it and paying the township $6,000 annually.  He submitted a modified plan on Wednesday. Ringelberg was at the Wednesday meeting but did not address his latest proposal.

The parks commission was not interested in the plan.

“It does make me sad that house can’t be saved,” Brand added.

Commissioner Dick Becker has proposed a picnic area or a similar gathering spot to commemorate the Huyser family’s house and donation.

There are many things the township can do to keep the legacy alive, including community gardens, improvements to the blueberry fields and butterfly garden, as well as upgrades to the walking trails, Laninga said.

“One thing at a time,” he said.

There is a gazebo and monument at the park’s entrance dedicated to the Huysers.

History

A special committee in December 2022 concluded the house should be torn down.

The township building authority was then tasked with finding a “do-able” plan for the house and proposed turning it into a Living Legacy Center for multiple uses such as a parks office, history site or gallery. The parks commission, though, was unhappy with that proposal and sent a letter to the township board in opposition to the building authority plan.

In October, the township board responded to the parks commission comment by freezing all spending on the house and asking the township attorney to determine who had authority over the structure.

On Nov. 1, the township attorney said the parks commission has control over the house. The commission voted unanimously on Nov. 15 to tear down the structure. On Jan. 17, the parks commission approved the bid to demolish the house and sent it to the township board for a final decision. On March 13, the township board voted to accept the demolition bid.