BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
A proposed Walters Lake parks development is off the table after property owners had a change of heart.
“They had changed their mind – there is no intention of doing anything with that property right now until they weigh all of their options,” said township Supervisor Pat Kittle. “They have been approached by developers, and like I said, I don’t want to get in any sort of competition with anybody.”
Kittle said that triggered his decision to “pull the plug on the entire project.”
“More importantly, if the family has no intention of doing anything, let’s just let it stay as is,” he said.
The decision voids and forfeits a $2.25 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, awarded to the Independence Township Parks, Recreation and Seniors Department this past December.
The potential purchase was met with negative feedback from local residents who wanted the 76-acre, two-parcel piece of the land to stay the same.
The Township Board voted unanimously, March 17, to withdraw the bid to buy the land from the Zeunen family and Clarion Farm LLC, and to terminate the application approval with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
“For the last couple of years, the township has been kicking around the idea of trying to expand our park system, that’s part of our master plan, and as a component of a growing community, retaining green space is pretty important, I think, to a lot of different people,” Kittle said. “When the passing of one of the property owners on the Walters Lake property happened, we had approached the family to see if there was any interest in preserving the family name and creating a legacy in honor of the family and see if we could turn that property into a park.”
Kittle also said a new park would have been a fine addition to the township.
“From an opportunity of what would be the least impactful from a negative perspective on a lake, we kind of thought at the time a park would be a pretty good idea,” Kittle said. “We applied with the State Department of Natural Resources Land Grant Division, and we approached the family to talk about different ideas and kicked around some plans. We as a board had done all of the notifications as required by the state as far as holding public hearings.”
Township officials filled out the grant applications and were verbally approved for the $4.5 million, with a $1.5 million match from the township, for a total of $6 million.
“Last year, the state gave us $2.25 million of it and said that if you guys really want to push this, you can apply for the second half this year,” explained Kittle. “In the interim, when all this was going on, the family had been approached by other entities as well who were interested in the park or the property. And then I thought we’re going to kind of get caught in limbo because I know there were other communities in the state who were really interested in developing the park and we had a couple of million dollars tied up.”