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Ottawa County files lawsuit against Zeeland couple

By Jake Allen/The Holland Sentinel • Dec 29, 2017 at 4:00 PM

A Zeeland couple is facing a lawsuit from Ottawa County as they are accused of encroaching on county-owned property, which is managed by the parks commission.

Ottawa County Parks and Recreation is also listed as a plaintiff on the lawsuit, which was filed in 20th Circuit Court in Grand Haven. The property in question is a portion of the Upper Macatawa Natural Area adjacent to property owned by the defendants.

The defendants are listed as Dan and Diane Disselkoen. The county accuses the couple of mowing and maintaining a portion of the Upper Macatawa Natural Area as well as installing a portion of a paved driveway, a retaining wall and play equipment on the property.

While the lawsuit was filed on Dec. 14, county efforts to communicate with the couple regarding the encroachment have been ongoing for many years, according an affidavit regarding the lawsuit.

Parks department employees first noticed the encroachments in 2008 and sent a letter to the couple demanding they suspend the encroachments, according to the affidavit.

The couple continued to encroach on the Upper Macatawa Natural Area land and did not reply to the county’s letter. The county sent a second letter to no avail in 2010, according to the affidavit.

In 2014 the county sent a third letter to the couple, who did not reply and continued encroaching on the land, according to the affidavit

A fourth letter was sent to the couple from the county in September 2017, according to the affidavit, but the couple did not reply. However the play equipment was removed from the Upper Macatawa Natural Area around this time period.

The county is requesting the court declares that the Disselkoen couple cease, desist and abate any trespassing activities on the Upper Macatawa Natural Area and award the county legal and equitable relief.

Douglas Van Essen, Ottawa County corporate counsel, warned the couple that the dispute over the land would be resolved one way or another in a letter dated Sept. 26, 2017. The letter was included in the affidavit.

“I assure you that one way or another, this dispute is not going to be left to my successor,” Van Essen wrote in the letter. “Please pursue my overture so we can discuss and reach a mutually beneficial resolution that minimizes costs and hassle to everyone.”

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