2012-09-20 / Front Page

Timber Shores up for auction

By Patti Brandt
of the Enterprise staff

Ten parcels of waterfront land in Leelanau County will go on the auction block at 11 a.m. Friday in Leelanau County Circuit Court.

The 10 parcels comprise about 392 acres of the former Timber Shores RV campground that has been foreclosed on and is being auctioned by American Bancorp of Minnesota. According to Leelanau County records, $109,656 in property taxes is owed on the 10 parcels for 2010 and $89,862 is owed for 2011. Those amounts include interest and penalties. Another $65,458 is due for the 2012 summer taxes, according to Leelanau Township records.

The entire 453-acre parcel, the former Timber Shores RV campground, was owned by NM Investment Company of Royal Oak, which purchased it for $6.9 million in 2007. In 2010 the bank foreclosed on the property for non-payment of that land contract, with the company now owing $7.2 million including interest. NM Investments is made up of Fred Gordon of Royal Oak, William Widmyer of Hartland, and Oscar Stefanutti of Bloomfield Hills.

The company had made some initial payments to the bank, so the property was split to give the company about 160 acres of the property, according to Aaron B. Kendal, American Bancorp’s Bloomfield Hills attorney.

Earlier this year NM Investments spent time shopping the property around to Leelanau County, Leelanau Township and the Village of Northport — all of which had no interest in buying it.

“What would we do with it?” Leelanau County Supervisor Jim Neve asked recently.

Neve said he does not know of anybody who is currently interested in the property, though said the township would certainly be supportive of anybody that wanted to develop it.

NM Investments visited a Leelanau Township Board meeting in February, pushing a proposal to have the township apply for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, which had money available for the purchase and improvement of parks and recreation land.

At the time Trustee Gary Fredrickson said he didn’t see the harm in exploring the proposal, saying he thought the land could promote economic stability for the community. The Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce, as well as some township residents and business owners, also supported looking into the grant option, saying that the area was never more economically viable than when the old Timber Shores was open.

Some opponents of buying the property cited the fact the back taxes are owed and NM Investments was seeking a government bail out by having the township apply for grant money.

The Northport Village Council, which was also visited by the company, was not interested in the property because of its location outside of village limits.

NM Investments received unanimous approval in 2007 from the Leelanau Township Planning Commission for the first phase of its proposed 492-unit mixed-use development.

That Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval expired on Sept. 17, and Gordon has been notified, Neve said. The PUD has already been renewed a couple of times and now cannot be extended again under township ordinance, Neve said.

“He’s exceeded his opportunity to have it extended,” Neve said. “If he wants to develop that he’ll have to apply to the planning commission again. He’ll have to start all over down there.”

Under that initial approval, phase I was to include infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer, 241 residential units that included a dozen waterfront condominium buildings, as well as cluster housing units and single family residences on the east and west sides of M-22.

Phase I was to take about five years to complete. Work was to begin that fall on the first 6-unit condominium, as well as a beach clubhouse, were to be done by spring.

Timber Shores would have been the third largest development in the county. The largest was the Homestead in Glen Arbor Township with 685 units, followed by the now defunct BayView project in Suttons Bay, which had 529 units planned.

Timber Shores was a campground that sites for both tents and recreational vehicles, a beach and a marina. It closed in the 1980s and over the last 15 years two different developers have tried to turn the parcel into a residential vacation destination. The first, Daniel Ketelaar and his Ennis Creek Development, received preliminary support from the township, but was nixed after the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians successfully sued in federal court to have the marina eliminated from the project.

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