An 84-year-old house in a Laketown Township park will receive “absolutely no money” until an opinion from the township attorney determines who has control over the structure, the township board decided on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
The action comes after the township building authority in August approved a plan to turn the empty home into a Living Legacy Center with multiple uses for about $125,000. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan, which holds a conservation easement on the property, approved the restoration plan in September.
The 1939 home of Manuel and Lilah Huyser, both of whom have passed away, was donated to the township along with 102 acres of land for a park in 2001. The house was unused for more than 20 years.
The parks commission decided on March 15 to hand over the home to the building authority and told the group to have a plan for the building by Sept. 15. If the deadline was not met, the house would have been recommended for demolition.
The building authority’s plan met that deadline.
The parks commission, though, was unhappy with the building authority’s plan and last month voted to send a letter to the township board stating, “we are not in favor of continuing with this project.”
Costs and control
On Wednesday, Oct. 11, some township board members spoke against the estimated $125,000 costs and any annual operating expenses.
Treasurer Jim Johnson said residents don’t want the house.
“I don’t feel the township should be in the museum business,” he said.
Trustee Jim Delaney called the Huyser House project “dead on arrival” and that the house should be torn down.
Trustee Patrick Dietrich said residents have spoken “loud and clear” that they don’t want the house.
“It is indeed not worth saving,” he said.
Clerk Amber Davis said private fundraising could be used to pay for renovations so taxpayer money is not spent on the home.
During public comment, a resident said he has $6,000 in pledges for the house and could get more if he had more time.
“I think there is value in having a tangible reminder of a World War II-era home,” Davis said.
The motion approved Wednesday said that “absolutely no money be spent” on the house until an opinion comes from the township’s attorney.
Supervisor Linda Howell said a key issue is who has authority over the house – the township board, the parks commission or the building authority.
The board directed the township attorney to provide a written legal opinion for the Nov. 1 meeting on who has control over the house and if the conservancy easement allows the structure itself to be demolished.