Grand Haven Tribune: Township approves Schmidt land donation

Township approves Schmidt land donation

Alexander Sinn • May 31, 2019 at 8:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — A land donation years in the making was approved Tuesday by the Grand Haven Township Board.

The board voted 4-2 to acquire the 74-acre Schmidt property between Ferris and Lincoln streets, with conditions that split the property into two separate arrangements. The property would likely be used for numerous recreation fields. 

Trustees William Kieft and David Gignac voted against the agreement, with Kieft expressing concern for the restrictions placed on the donation. Trustee Cal Meeusen was absent for the vote.

Plans were last taken up in September 2018, when landowner Jim Schmidt backed out of the donation amid opposition from neighbors. Since that time, Township Supervisor Mark Reenders continued negotiations with Schmidt for the property, which board trustees say will help fill a need for recreational opportunities.

The new arrangement splits the property into two parts: a 67.12-acre portion gifted initially to the township, and a 5.68-acre parcel, including a barn, that will be gifted at a later date, or upon the death of Jim Schmidt.

The smaller portion with the barn will be separated by a chain-link fence constructed by the township by July 2020, according to the agreement. If the agreement’s terms are violated, Township Manager Bill Cargo said, the township would be at risk of losing funding from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

The township will carry out plans for the proposed Schmidt Heritage Park, which officials estimate would cost between $8 million and $12 million to complete. Conceptual plans previously drawn for the site include numerous recreational fields, pathways and facilities.

The property is valued at more than $1.7 million, township officials said. 

Kieft said he was concerned that the agreement’s definition of “physical activities” does not included uses like playground equipment and disc golf. He said it was unclear how the project would be funded.

Trustee Ron Redick said the “overwhelming generosity of this gift, combined with the long term benefit to the community” outweigh the concerns. Redick, Reenders, Trustee Howard Behm and Township Clerk Laurie Larsen voted to approve both the land donation and direction to staff to pursue funding for development of the park.

The first phase of the project will be completed within four years with input from Schmidt, Cargo said. The portion with the barn could be used for reception events. Officials said it is constructed to commercial standards, and should be renovated for public access.

An environmental assessment of the entire property did not raise concerns, officials said. Design work from Nederveld & Associates completed when the agreement was previously on the table will be retained, with amendments to the township’s Hofma Vision.

Hofma Park & Preserve is located across Ferris Street from the property, while the township-owned Chittenden property abuts the Schmidt land to the south along Lincoln Street. 

The township was recently approached by a property owner to purchase two lots of about 17 acres on Groesbeck Street, which could also connect to Hofma Park & Preserve. Cargo said residents want an additional north entrance to Hofma at the location. 

The township’s Parks & Recreation Committee has asked the board to authorize the purchase using state grants or Community Foundation funding. 

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