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No year-round residents at Clearwater Campground

January 19, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- For three months of every year, Ron and Connie Troy leave their home in the township for 24 hours every three days.

The couple has owned for the past 10 years a "condo" unit, what Ron describes as "a fancy trailer," located within the Clearwater Campground, 1140 S. Ortonville Road. When they moved in back in 2000, their intention was to go south for the winter months and the plan worked well. However, Ron Troy said for the past couple years, they stopped going south because of doctor appointments.

"We live here nine months, and in the past couple years (during the period the campground is closed), we leave for a 24-hour period and come back every three days," he said. "We go to the kids, or go to a hotel. You gotta go by the rules."

"The rules" stated in a consent judgement from 1995, are that the campground 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 unites 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 is interpreted by some of the association members and how the township interprets it has become a source of conflict.

"I'm really aggravated because when I purchased the property, I knew the consent judgment was in place, and now they want to change it," said Troy. "We've been here for all these years, leaving for 24 hours, coming back and we never had a problem."

The township board board voted 6-0 at their Jan. 18 meeting 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.

"Individual units may be visited and occupied on a 72-hour basis, but the consent judgment doesn't specify how often that can occur," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "Because it isn't clear, we're working to come up with a resolution so it's enforceable. Allowing someone to stay there year-round is against state law for a campground."

Michaelann Neadow, co-owner of Clearwater Campground, said that while the campground association is separate from the campground because they pay their own taxes, they are not a separate entity on the campground license.

"If they stay year-round, we would become a mobile home community," she said. "The township doesn't want that and neither do I. I'm trying to abide by the rules of the township and the consent judgment placed before me. The township is good to me and I want to make sure I'm in good standing. We've worked too hard to make this a nice campground."

The motion the board approved Tuesday night, while denying the request to allow campground association members over 55 an exemption, did offer an alternative to owners such as the Troys.

The motion stated it will allow each individual co-owner to request a variance from the zoning board of appeals pursuant to "an individual hardship or practical difficulty pursuant to any one individual's health or other non self-imposed hardship. The zoning board of appeals may further limit the variance with conditions and limitations as the state law allows and the zoning board of appeals determines."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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