Township And Upset Neighbor Speak Out On Hobby Farm Debate

Posted at 10:58 PM, Aug 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-13 22:58:35-04

MATTAWAN, Mich. – A feud between neighbors and an Antwerp Township ordinance was once again up for debate in rural Van Buren County on Tuesday, Aug. 13th.

The Hunter family has a hobby farm in Mattawan but a neighbor has complained they have too many animals on their land.

At first, the township sent a letter to the Hunters saying they were in compliance with the zoning ordinance.  After a letter from the Hunter’s neighbor, Sandra Schaser Weiderman, complaining about the number of animals kept on the family farm, the township sent another letter saying the Hunters were no longer in compliance and had 90 days to get rid of their animals.\

The township supervisor, Daniel Ruzick, said it was a mistake on behalf of the township.  The company hired by the township to enforce ordinances, LSL Planning, incorrectly counted the number of animals during the initial visit, one horse was away for treatment.  Ruzick said if LSL had known the horse was coming back they should have informed the property owner they needed more room to keep the animal.

The Hunters maintain they did tell the inspector about their intention to bring the horse back.

The farm’s owner, Kelly Hunter-Vander Kley, said, “We’ve had numerous inspections.  We have been asked to spend money and time and we have always done so quickly and without complaint.”

On Tuesday night, we heard the root of the problem from the perspective of Don and Sandra Weiderman.

The Weidermans live down wind from the farm and filed a letter informing the township that the Hunters were violating a zoning ordinance because of the number of horses, donkeys, chickens and ducks on their property.

“I think the question here is scale.  How much can you jam into 4.85 acres before you start to affect the quality of life of the neighbors?” Don Weiderman asked.

In the middle of the neighbors feud is the township and the ordinance.

“You’ve got the right to farm and you got the opposite,” said supervisor Ruzick.  “It’s just a tough situation that we are dealing with.  But I assure you that there is common ground that we can get this handled.”

The township admits that ordinances require changing from time to time.  Ruzick encouraged the public to voice opinions at an Antwerp Township zoning ordinance workshop on Aug. 28th at 7:00pm at the township hall on Front Street.

As for the animals on the Hunter’s farm, the family was given an initial 90 days to remove some of the animals, Tuesday night they were told they could have an additional 30 days pushing the date back to December.

All parties involved said they would like to see the issue resolved well before the December deadline.