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‘I’m not leaving— they’d have to carry me out’

by Susan Bromley

February 08, 2012

Jessie and Jim Cartwright at their home in the Clearwater Campground, 1140 S. Ortonville Road. Photo by Patrick McAbee.
Brandon Twp.- Jim Cartwright says he and his wife, Jessie, will not move from their home in the Clearwater Campground, regardless of what a judge rules on March 16.

"I'm not leaving— they'd have to carry me out," said Cartwright this week. "I'm 85, my wife is 84, I'm a World War II vet. I own my property and I can't stay? Somebody screwed up."

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 is interpreted by some of the association members and how the township interprets 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.

Next month, Supervisor Kathy Thurman expects a clarification from Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman on the 72-hour provision. She had no further comment.

Jim Cartwright said he and his wife had been coming to the Clearwater Campground for 47 years from Rochester, where they lived in a mobile home park. When their lot rent continued to increase, they decided to move here permanently, since they own the land on which their approximately 20-foot wide by 35-foot long park model trailer sits. They also pay taxes and vote here.

The rule as he understood it was they could live here nine months of the year, but during the winter season, the rule was vague about the 72-hour period. They would leave, and then return to stay every three days.

"Now they say we can only stay for a 72-hour period once a month (during the winter months)," Jim said. "It's a helluva deal. My wife has medical issues— she has Alzheimer's, she is legally blind, she has a heart condition and kidney problems. The doctors said the worst thing they could do is to make her leave the environment she is in, because right now she knows where she is."

Jim, who was wounded during combat, has his own medical issues. He is fighting prostate cancer and has had heart bypass surgery. They have no money to leave and nowhere else to go.

"When I moved in, I had no intention of staying, but my wife had all these problems and things kept getting worse," he said. "My wife is acclimated to this place. We can't leave."