Parks commission votes to demolish Huyser House

The vote was unanimous. The commission is now seeking bids for the work.
The Huyser House at Huyser Farm Park, 4188 64th St., in Laketown Township.

An 84-year-old house in a Laketown Township park is now on track to be torn down.

The unanimous decision by the Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday, Nov. 15, to demolish the uninhabited structure came after an eleventh-hour proposal from a resident to lease the two-story Huyser House and refurbish it was dismissed by commissioners.

“This is an emotionally charged issue for the entire township,” said Karen Simmons, vice chairperson for the parks commission. More residents want the house removed than want to save it, she said.

“We’ve got to save the residents money,” said Commissioner Dick Becker, saying the house and a proposal to turn it into a legacy center for about $125,000 do not improve the quality of life for the township.

The commission plans to have bids for the demolition for the parks meeting on Dec. 20.

Long debate

The vote brings a more than 20-year debacle nearer to an end.

The house was built in 1939 by Manuel and Lilah Huyser. It has been empty and falling into disrepair since the home along with 102 acres of land were donated to the township for a park in 2001 after the Huysers passed away.

Past parks commissions recommended the house be preserved. The most recent parks master plan in 2018 showed the house as part of the overall park design.

The special committee in December 2022 concluded the house should be torn down. Safety, cost and a lack of purpose for the house were key factors in the decision.

The township building authority was 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 the proposal, stating, “we are not in favor of continuing with this project.”

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 at Huyser Farm Park, 4188 64th St.

Proposal

Township resident Steven Ringelberg proposed leasing the Huyser House from the township. His proposal, a last revision of it submitted at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, an hour before the parks meeting, said he would be responsible for insuring, securing, maintaining and restoring the Huyser House. He would pay the township $6,000 annually with stepped increases after the fifth anniversary. He would make the house a long-term rental.

“I’m not trying to be a problem. I’m trying to be a solution,” he said.

The commission did not discuss the proposal in detail before voting to demolish the house.

Ringelberg also proposed paying $5,000 for a survey of residents on what to do with the Huyser House. The board did not act on the proposal.