Lakeside Resort seeking more than $150,000, right to develop on Crystal Lake

By Ryan Jeltema • Last Updated 2:32 pm on Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gerrit Bakker’s lawsuit against Crystal Township totals more than 1,000 pages.

CRYSTAL — A Crystal businessman is alleging Crystal Township has been blocking his plans for years to develop a campground so the government can use his land to expand a park.
Gerrit Bakker of Lakeside Resort filed a lawsuit in 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Stanton on Nov. 1 seeking more than $150,000 in damages and the right to develop the Sunset Beach Campground on North Shore Drive on the east shore of Crystal Lake.
The lawsuit totals more than 1,000 pages with a 78-page complaint and 76 attachments.
Bakker’s attorney, Mark Demorest of Royal Oak, alleges the township has “continually and repeatedly thwarted” Bakker’s plans for years to devalue Bakker’s property so it can be added to the nearby Crystal Park. He claims the Crystal Lake Association also has pressured the township to block the campground.
Bakker owns seven acres of land with 248 feet of lake frontage at North Shore Drive and West Lake Street, which is near Crystal Park. He also has 50 more acres on Peterman Avenue.
Demorest alleges the township has been eying Bakker’s land since the early 1990s, when officials hatched plans for a large lakefront park around the former Crystal Palladium.
The township purchased a lot north of the park, the former Palladium property and options on two more beachfront lots in 1992. They were included in a 1995 plan that included dreams of greatly expanding Crystal Park into a regional destination with a public marina.
He had been discussing plans for the new campground in 2002 with members of the Crystal Downtown Development Authority and Crystal Lake Association.
“Lakeside had hoped to help build upon the community pride and development momentum generated by the Crystal Park development project.” Demorest wrote.
Bakker was planning to use the same engineers and architects as the township to incorporate the campground into the larger park plan.
“These conceptual plans contemplated the transfer of some or all of Lakeside’s lakefront beach area to the township by utilizing state grant funding resources, which were specifically earmarked for this exact type of public acquisition,” Demorest wrote.
Bakker’s Lakeside Resort operated the former nine-unit Crystal Beach Motel from 1995 to 2005. He tore down the motel in 2005 to make way for a campground and marina.
However, Demorest wrote township officials won’t allow the new development due to the township’s anti-funneling ordinance to block  landowners without direct lake frontage from obtaining private access to the lake.
The ordinance specifically required 50 feet of lake frontage per family. That would have limited Bakker to allowing only four families of campers at a time on the beach.
Bakker was hoping to develop 39 campsites across North Shore Drive from the lake with a private beach and marina for campers on the water.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a permit in 2007 for Bakker to develop 33 campsites. Township attorney Clifford Bloom sent Bakker a letter in April 2007 threatening a $500 daily penalty for anytime more than four families of campers were on the beach.
Meanwhile, Demorest wrote that the township was supporting a separate DEQ application from South Shore Campground at 2850 South Shore Dr., the Norwest Tack No. 2 subdivision on North Shore Dr. and Charlie Braman’s plans for a back lot tourist lodging facility at 1600 North Shore Dr.
Demorest contends all three of those developments also violate the anti-funneling language in the zoning ordinance. He pointed out a zoning ordinance amendment approved in September 2007 was worded specifically to allow Norwest Tack No. 2 and the South Shore Campground expansion while continuing to block the Lakeside Resort plan.
“Crystal Township’s actions toward Lakeside were inconsistent with its actions toward others,” Demorest wrote.
He believes the Crystal Lake Association was applying pressure on township officials to block Bakker’s plans.
All five members of the Crystal Township board were replaced in the 2008 elections. The new board members still declined to approve a variance for Bakker’s plans in 2008 and 2009.
His DEQ permit to build the campground expired in 2010.
Township board members eventually approved another zoning ordinance amendment that would allow Lakeside’s campground to include 25 sites, which is 14 fewer than Bakker originally applied for and eight fewer than the DEQ permit approved.
Demorest wrote that the township “cunningly” ensured Bakker would never be able to compete against South Shore Campground with only 25 campsites.
“The very limited lake access rights granted to Lakeside compared to the unlimited lake access rights granted to South Shore Campground insure that Lakeside will still always have to charge much more for its 25 recently authorized campsites than South Shore Campground can charge for its 165 campsites, even though Lakeside has more than twice as much lakefront beach area,” Demorest wrote.
He wrote that the township has “crippled” Lakeside so Bakker’s land value will fall and the township can purchase the land cheaply to add to Crystal Park. He contends the township’s actions are part of an effort to “placate” a “small but vocal opposition group” in the lake association.
Bakker is charging the township with six claims, seeking damages of more than $25,000 and reimbursement of attorney’s fees on each. He also is seeking a court order allowing him to continue developing the campground.
The township has until Monday to file a response to the lawsuit. No hearings have been scheduled in court.
Crystal Township Board members declined to comment on the case.

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