Township puts fate of Huyser House on 6-month timeline

The parks commission moved the fate of the Huyser House to the township building authority.
The Huyser House on Feb. 1, 2023, is covered in a blanket of snow.

The fate of an aging house in a Laketown Township park will be decided in six months after a controversial decision on Wednesday, March 15.

The Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission voted 3-2 to hand over the future of the house at the Huyser Farm Park to the township’s building authority after receiving a report on the structural integrity of the house built in 1939.

The parks commission has debated for more than 20 years what to do with the house which has sat empty even before the township acquired it in 2001. The commission still has not determined a use for the house.

Shifting responsibility

“The building authority is a project management group,” said Parks Commission Chairperson Tom Shuff who is also on the building authority. In the past, he said, the three-member board managed the demolition of prison buildings at what is now Shore Acres Township Park, the rehabilitation of the Felt Mansion and the construction of the Graafschap Fire Department building.

“I want to get it out of parks and into the building authority where it belongs,” Shuff said about the house at 4188 64th St.

The decision gives the building authority six months to decide what to do with the house or the house will be recommended for demolition. The building authority’s recommendation will go to the township board, not the parks commission. The township board will have final say on funding and the fate of the structure.

Township Manager Al Meshkin said the building authority can put together “a pretty good plan” in six months.

Discussion and reaction

Parks Commissioner Karen Simmons, who voted against the proposal, didn’t like that the responsibility for the house was passed to the authority and township board, bypassing the parks commission.

Commissioner Anne Brand, who voted against the proposal, said funding was an issue.

“We’re still looking at a significant amount of money to tear down a house,” she said.

Commissioner Jeremy Van Hoven, who supported the idea, said the future of the house doesn’t really belong under the control of the parks group and passing the fate of the structure to the building authority may finally result in action, something the parks commission has not been able to do in more than 20 years.

Earlier in the meeting, Shuff went over parks minutes compiled from 2001 to 2023 that showed how the parks commission handled the house.

The decades-worth of minutes showed the site was discussed many times, but, said Simmons, “there was never a great idea for the house.”

Residents at the meeting called the commissioners who backed the proposal cowards for passing the buck to the building authority. Some called the move a power grab that will lead to a waste of township funds on a useless building. Many at the meeting wanted the house torn down.

Inside the Huyser House.


The 1,559-square-foot, two-story home was built in 1939 by Manuel and Lilah Huyser. Lilah, 85, died in 1996. Manuel, 90, died in 1999. The township acquired the property in 2001 for a 102-acre park.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Chad Warden, Laketown Township building inspector, presented his report on the home as requested by the parks commission.

“To save the property it will need repairs started within the next 12 months, due to the siding deterioration and chimney flashings,” he wrote. “The foundation and framing are in good to excellent condition making a rehab of this property financially feasible in my opinion.”

He estimated a total remodel of the house could range from $93,000 to $233,000 depending on materials.

Building authority

The building authority is appointed by the township board and authorized to acquire, furnish, equip, own, improve, enlarge, operate and maintain buildings, automobile parking lots or structures, recreational facilities, and any other properties and facilities used for any public purpose.

The authority has three voting members: Meshkin, Shuff and Bob Schaftenaar. All three were appointed by the township board in March 2022. The township clerk and treasurer are also members but do not vote.

The most recent activity of the group was in December when the authority voted to pay off a bond early and approved the purchase and mortgage agreement of the property at 6289 147th Ave. known as the Wolters House.

The next meeting of the authority has not yet been scheduled.