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Tent garage dispute in SLT

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:47 PM

Township residents Larry and Mary Probst erected a 12-by-24-foot portable hoop-style fabric garage at their Leonard Road residence in late 2011, after obtaining a permit from the township. In early 2012, the Township Board passed an ordinance prohibiting such temporary structures — but it stipulated owners would have until April 1, 2014, to remove those that had already been erected.

At that time, the Probsts hired Spring Lake attorney Edward Grafton.

In a letter to the township dated May 16, 2012, Grafton said state law allows the structure to be grandfathered in and remain for its useful life — as long as 10 years.

“However, if the township is overwhelmingly keen to have this nonconforming use discontinued, then my clients will reluctantly sell the accessory building to the township for $25,000,” Grafton noted. “The terms of sale would also include a requirement that the township provide all labor and materials needed to remove the building, and to return the lawn underneath to its previous condition.”

Grafton said $25,000 is what it would cost to build a permanent structure.

The attorney said he never received a response from township officials after sending that letter and thought all was well.

On March 4 of this year, the Probsts received a reminder letter from the township that all tent-like structures must be removed by April 1. On May 30, the Probsts received a municipal civil infraction for an “illegal tarp-covered structure” signed by Township Community Services Director Lukas Hill.

But rather than pay the $50 fine and remove the structure, Grafton said his clients decided to fight back. Grafton claims the Probsts' civil rights have been violated. He filed an "answer" on behalf of his clients, denying responsibility.

“We're going to make a major war out of this event, although the Probsts could pay the $50 and be done,” Grafton said. “I'm going to make as big a stink as I can.”

Larry Probst, who has lived in the township for more than a half-century, said the issue has been frustrating.

“I've never felt so disillusioned by local government in my life,” he said.

Read the complete story in Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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