Newaygo County fundraiser continuing despite zoning dispute

Posted at 6:58 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 15:26:23-04

LILLEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Hog Bash, a Newaygo County fundraiser for cystic fibrosis now in its seventh year, is being threatened by a local zoning ordinance.

The problem is, organizers say they aren't even sure which part of the Lilley Township ordinance they're violating.

The first four years went off without a hitch.  Hog Bash is a motorcycle and camping event that raises money to fight CF, but the event grew over the years and had to move to a larger property, which, it turns out, is owned by someone who doesn't get along with the township that well.

“The first few years when we were down the road, we made a phone call and they were like, 'no,'" said Angie Schaub, one of the event's organizers. '"There’s no application, no process, just go to the health department,' and that’s what we did. There’s rules involved, and we follow them.”

The event moved to Misty Moon Campground for the fifth year, a 10-acre piece of land owned by Rick Fulton. During that event, they got a notice that said they weren't allowed to hold the event there, but say they were never issued a citation.  They moved to another location for year number six and had no problems.

Deciding they liked Fulton's property for its logistics, they moved this year's Hog Bash back to that property, making sure to reach out to the township early to comply and avoid confusion. But three letters, including a certified note, garnered no response from officials.

Event organizers say they have never needed approval from the township in year's past - until they hosted the event at Fulton's property. The bad blood, they tell FOX 17, stems from a lawsuit years old that has nothing to do with the fundraiser itself.

““We don’t want to do anything that’s against the law," said Scott Smith, another of the event's organizers.  "All we want to do it help our foundation. We’re not the property, you know. And it’s frustrating to us when they’re trying to stop us from raising money to benefit a foundation that gets overlooked.”

The 7th Annual Hog Bash, scheduled for this weekend back at the Misty Moon Campground, is still getting a 'no' from the township.  The township tells the group it is because of zoning violations, but couldn't pinpoint to FOX 17 or event organizers which exact part of the ordinance they're in violation of.  Organizers say they're happy to try and fix whatever issues there are...if they knew what they were.

Hog Bash will press ahead with their event this weekend regardless - the event raises too much money for the foundation for them to put a stop to it. They;re prepared to eat any fines that may come, but they aren't happy about it.

"If they’ve got a due process, show us it," said Smith. "We will follow it. We don’t have a problem with that. But the only thing is they haven’t been able to produce anything for us at all that we need to follow, and that’s all we’ve ever asked for.”

FOX 17 spoke to the Lilley Township attorney Tuesday, but did not hear back from his office on Wednesday. Hog Bash is set to be held May 12-15th, coinciding with the Blessing of the Bikes Weekend in Baldwin. Tickets are still available at the door and the event will feature food, games, and live music from Insubordination, Bad Reputation and Toxxic.