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Clearwater Campground, Brandon Township reach settlement

April 04, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- After more than a year of a public battle, the Clearwater Campground Association and the township have reached a settlement which may allow some campground residents to stay in their homes year-round.

During their April 2 meeting, the township board unanimously approved an agreement with the Clearwater Campground Association which allows campground residents to apply for a variance annually to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Residents able to prove a disability or hardship could be allowed to remain at the campground through the winter season.

"I feel this is the best solution to addressing the 3-month closed period in order to maintain the seasonal campground designation," said Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "It's a fair and equitable solution."

A consent judgment from 1995 states that the campground, 1140 S. Ortonville Road, closes for a continuous three-month period during the winter season. The Clearwater Campground Association, consisting of about 98 owners of stationary units that pay taxes on their properties, "may designate from time to time two units as caretaker units which can be occupied year-round." Otherwise, "individual units may be "visited" and occupied by the respective co-owners on a 72-hour basis."

But how that was interpreted by some of the association members and how the township interpreted it became a source of conflict and in January 2011, the township board voted 6-0 to deny a request by the Clearwater Campground Association that the township grant a variance exempting individual co-owners of campground units who are over the age of 55 from the consent judgment requiring them to vacate the premises for three months out of the year.

Controversy ensued as the campground owner, Michaelann Neadow, voiced concerns over 5-6 unit owners who were staying, violating terms of the judgment and putting her in danger of losing her state license to operate the campground.

The residents who were staying, several of whom are elderly, cited various medical and financial hardship reasons for not leaving the campground in the winter. They also noted they pay taxes in the township.

Several citizens who do not reside in the campground joined the argument, upset that the township appeared to be on the verge of evicting people from their homes.

In the new settlement, which will take effect for the 2012-2013 season, an amendment to the consent judgment notes that the campground will continue to close for a continuous 3-month period during the winter season, but "nothing contained herein shall prevent Brandon Township, through the discretionary powers of its Zoning Board of Appeals, from granting annual variances to the 'one weekend per month' restriction on a case-by-case basis and upon a determination that a unit owner suffers from an objectively verifiable disability or hardship that would make exiting the respective unit unduly difficult as determined by said Zoning Board of Appeals in its sole and absolute discretion."

Variance applications must be submitted to the township building department by Sept. 1, along with an application fee totaling a third of the standard application fee. Variances must continue to be applied for annually.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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