Government Limits Irk Developer of RV Park Plan

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September 23, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Developers have dropped plans to build an upscale recreational vehicle park in Baroda Township in southwest Michigan, according to the St. Joseph Herald -Palladium.

Kennedy Reese Investments reported in a letter to the township that the company was unhappy with the township planning commission's intent to require the park to comply with 50- to 100-foot setbacks instead of the 35-foot rule for regular homes in an agricultural district.

Dayna Kozminski, the company's managing partner, wrote in the letter sent Friday that she appreciates Baroda Township officials' efforts to understand the project and decide if it is a good fit for the township.

"However, it is unfortunate that a deviation from the standard setback has caused this project to fall apart, and I do believe that this disagreement has led to a blanket dislike of the project for a few members of the commission," Kozminski wrote. "At this point, even if the setback issue were resolved, I do not feel that the special-use permit process could proceed with good faith negotiations …."

Township Supervisor Jim Brow read the letter aloud Monday (Sept. 21) at the Baroda Township Board of Trustees meeting.

"Personally, I'm pretty disappointed," Brow said about Kennedy Reese's decision in a phone interview Tuesday. "I thought it would bring a lot of business to the Baroda area."

Planning Commission Chairwoman Madeleine Carroll and Vice Chairman Thomas Lippert were not available for comment Tuesday.

Kennedy Reese told township officials in April the company wanted to buy the Meadows Family Golf Center and build a high-end RV park on the nine-hole golf course.

The company needed a special-use permit from the township to build the park on the agriculturally zoned land.

The RV park would have had at least 215 sites on 43 acres as well as a clubhouse, picnic pavilion, bathhouses, driving range and putting green, developers said.

Developers said they would have to eliminate a third of those RV sites if they were required to abide by 100-foot setbacks.

On Sept. 14, the Planning Commission recommended requiring setbacks of 100 feet at the front of the Meadows property and 50 feet on the other three sides as a buffer between the RVs and surrounding property.

On Monday, the trustees voted to keep the ordinance's 35-foot setback rule but allow the commission to consider expanding the setback requirement for RV parks, Brow said. David Wolf was the only trustee to vote against it.

But the trustees' action did not matter by Monday evening. Kozminski said in her letter that developers decided to pull their special-use permit application after the commission's meeting Sept. 14.

Mindy Mead, one of the Meadows' owners, said she was angry that the commission's decision drove the development away.

"What it appeared to me is that it was a personal bias that they didn't like the project," said Mead, who owns the golf course with her husband, Neal, and his mother, Marianne.

Mead said none of the commissioners explained why they wanted the setbacks to be 100 feet, which would have caused developers to lose 10 to 12 acres of usable land for the project.

"I think (the RV park) would be a great asset to the community and surrounding areas" by providing more business opportunities and tax revenue to the township, she said. "Baroda seems to be a dying community, and I think it would have brought some life back to it."

Mead said the future is uncertain for the Meadows, which the family began building in 1996.

The family is working with Fifth Third Bank to renegotiate the golf course's loan, but the bank has been willing to renew the loan only on a temporary basis to give the Meads time to sell or auction the property, she said.

"We're at the point where we'll have to see about refinancing, put it on the market or do a public auction," she said.

Mead said the golf course will be open through October and possibly next spring if the family is unable to sell it before then.

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