The hum of machinery was barely discernable as work continued on the M-231 bridge over Leonard Road, just a farm field away.
The former businessman and energetic 76-year-old still sported a pen protector in the pocket of his plaid shirt as he talked about the improvements made on his property in the past five years.
“It was a pig pen,” he said, spreading his arm out wide. “I took down the old house and put up a new one. I cleaned it up.”
The house and property are now for sale as Herzhaft prepares to fight a lawsuit filed recently in Ottawa County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Crockery Township by its attorneys, asks for a judgment against Herzhaft for failure to comply with the local zoning ordinance, construction code and anti-blight ordinance.
“What we asked for is the court to order him to reduce the size of the accessory building and bring it into compliance,” said Ross Leisman, an attorney from the law firm of Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones, “and to clean up the yard.”
Herzhaft was the owner of Grand Haven Die Casting, a business located near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Lincoln Avenue in Grand Haven Township. He sold the property and auctioned off the equipment. What was left over was brought to his Crockery Township property.
In pictures included with the lawsuit, large pieces of equipment, barrels and piles of boards were visibly scattered around the yard behind his barn and remodeled pole building. Trucks and trailers from the former business are also parked on the property.
Herzhaft said he remodeled the pole barn when he realized he had to bring some of the equipment home.
“I put on all new skin, new trusses and new lights,” he said as he walked through the spotlessly clean and well-organized building.
What he didn’t do was get a building permit for the 2,100-square-foot addition to the pole barn.
Crockery Township’s zoning ordinance allows for no more than 4,800 square feet of non-farm accessory building in this particular case.
Prior to the new construction, Herzhaft was grandfathered in with 5,344 square feet between two buildings already on the property when he purchased it.
Although he does lease out some of his land to a farmer, that doesn’t qualify the land as a farm, according to Township Supervisor Leon Stille.
Herzhaft received three notices last fall from the township stating that the building did not comply with the zoning ordinance or building code, and that the building needed to be brought into compliance or granted a variance.
Herzhaft said he offered to purchase a building permit and applied for a variance. The variance was denied.
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