2016-12-08 / Front Page

Developer floats 266-unit RV plan for Timbershores

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


ROGER HUGHES of Cedar, left, and Daryl Couturier of Lake Leelanau pack up after getting a start on a Leland Township sidewalk project Tuesday in downtown Lake Leelanau. The project is being undertaken by Lake Leelanau Excavating. Outside contractors have worked through an extended construction season thanks to an unseasonably warm fall. ROGER HUGHES of Cedar, left, and Daryl Couturier of Lake Leelanau pack up after getting a start on a Leland Township sidewalk project Tuesday in downtown Lake Leelanau. The project is being undertaken by Lake Leelanau Excavating. Outside contractors have worked through an extended construction season thanks to an unseasonably warm fall. Another plan for what’s left of the former Timbershores property — about 178 acres that includes 1,600 feet of frontage on Grand Traverse Bay — will likely be pitched to Leelanau Township officials in the coming months.

But township residents should not hold their breath.

“This isn’t the first, second or even third proposal I’ve heard since I’ve been here and none of them have come to anything,” said Leelanau Township Supervisor Doug Scripps.

But being willing to listen to proposals is part of his job, Scipps added.

Scripps said he and township zoning administrator Steve Patmore in October met with Scott Thompson, an engineer with Northern Civil Consulting, who pitched the latest proposal for the former campground and RV park.

The proposal, being called a “high-end destination RV resort,” will accommodate 266 RVs and will have volleyball, tennis and pickleball courts, horseshoe pits and a playground, as well as a clubhouse, pool and hot tub.

The proposal will have to go through the proper channels, Scripps said, which includes being presented to the Leelanau Township Planning Commission before anything else happens.

That step has not yet been taken, he said.

Also listed on the proposal are Horizon RV Development LLC; the Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge law firm in Traverse City; and Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio, the architectural firm that submitted the last proposal for the property about two years ago.

“I know there will be some serious resistance if this proposal goes down the road,” Scripps said.

Over the last few years several incarnations of a plan to turn the property into a recreational center based on an RV park with a hotel or motel have been presented to Leelanau Township officials.

The plan would have the township seeking a state grant and providing money from the general fund to purchase and develop the park — and then operate it.

Several township residents in the past have opposed proposals that would use tax dollars to fund the project.

And so far, Leelanau Township officials have turned down all requests for public funds.

The property itself has also gone through several incarnations. Once a thriving campground and RV park, the property consisted of 451 acres located on the east and west sides of M-22.

The entire property was once owned by NM Investments, a development company that consisted of several investors, including Fred Gordon.

The company bought the property for $6.9 million in 2007 with plans to build a condominium project with nearly 500 units. But that was right before the 2008 mortgage crisis that precipitated a national recession. Most of the property was lost through foreclosure to American Bancorporation of Minnesota.

About half of the original 451 acres has been sold to various buyers in the last few years.

What’s left are three non-contiguous parcels of varying size, all of which are located on the east side of M-22. One parcel measures about 17 acres, another 68 acres and a third about 93 acres.

Leelanau Township tax records show the land is now owned by RVTS Acquisition LLC, a Michigan company filed in Dec. 2014. Fred Gordon is the registered agent on file for that company.

The parcels were transferred to RVTS Acquisitions in April 2015 from American Bancorp for $315,000, those records show.

About 190 acres of the property — all located on the west side of M-22 — were sold in a deal finalized in December 2013. About 160 acres were purchased by local orchardists Don and Bob Gregory, who own and operate Cherry Bay Orchards Inc.

Another 7-acre parcel was sold to Daniel and Linda DeVriendt, who also have a small orchard in the area, and 20 acres was sold to township residents Jim and Nancy Thomas, who have since sold it.

Records show that the Gregory brothers purchased their piece for $187,707. Since then, the Gregorys sold about 106 acres of the parcel located on Overlook Road to Kristie Somavilla for $140,230, records show. Somavilla and her husband built a house on the property.

The DeVriendts paid $12,000 for their piece and the Thomases paid $30,000.

And in April 2015, about 14 acres was sold to Paul Glowacki of Traverse City. That property, located right on M-22, was purchased at a tax sale for $30,750, records show.

Scripps said the property encompasses the driveway to the former Timbershores RV park. Any project proposed there will also have to include a new access drive, he said.

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