Condemned farm issue drags on at county and township level

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:29 am on Tuesday, April 09, 2013

From left, Montcalm County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Russell, Montcalm County Building Department Director Scott Minard and Richland Township farmer Donald Beach attended Monday’s Montcalm County Law Enforcement & Courts Committee meeting to discuss Beach’s condemned property. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — A condemned farm that has Richland Township neighbors up in arms is in the process of being referred from the county back to the township … again.

The Montcalm County Law Enforcement & Courts Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend the full board refer the issue back to township officials. The full board will vote on the recommendation at the next regular meeting on April 22.

The committee’s recommendation came after an emotional statement from Donald Beach, who owns the farm with his brother, Stanley Beach, at 6417 N. Crystal Road just south of M-46 in the Vestaburg area. Donald Beach’s statement was in response to his neighbors, Carolyn Tubbs and Mary Vusich, who voiced complaints about the farm at the March 25 commissioners meeting.

The Beach brothers took over their parents’ farm several decades ago. The 36-acre property fell into disarray over the years. Both the Montcalm County Building Department and the Mid-Michigan District Health Department condemned the property in June 2011. But the condemnation order didn’t keep the brothers away. Donald Beach has repeatedly been found living on the property and brought into 8th Judicial Circuit Court on those charges. He was ordered to move out of a travel trailer on the grounds by Nov. 1, 2012, but has not done so.

Donald Beach is retired from Hitachi in Edmore while Stanley Beach is retired from Electrolux in Greenville. The brothers say their only source of income is Social Security, plus the numerous cows which reside at the farm.

At the March 25 meeting, Tubbs, who has lived next door to the Beach family since 1951, told commissioners her property is “worthless” because of the farm next door and she would like to see the buildings “demolished.” She said the problems with the property date back to at least 1998 and her property taxes were recently lowered by $10,500 at her request because of the decreased value of the neighborhood.

Vusich added that Tubbs’ property “isn’t worth a plug nickel” and “from all appearances, the Beach brothers have made a total mockery of the county of Montcalm and township of Richland.”

Donald Beach had a few words of his own for Tubbs on Monday. He said Tubbs regularly goes outside and bangs on a pan with a large spoon to wake his cattle. He brought photographs of Tubbs’ fence for commissioners to view after Tubbs complained that Beach’s cows were ruining her fence.

“My cows are doing well,” Beach said. “Every time I start working on the house, Ms. Tubbs calls the police. I’ve been dragged into court numerous times. I’ve spent thousands of dollars fighting this. Attorneys are expensive. My power was turned off on Sept. 7, 2011. It got awful cold nights. I got a travel trailer and then I’m told I can live in that either.

“I just want to be left alone and live in peace,” he said. “I have lived here all my life, all but two years in the service. I was a wounded veteran.”

Montcalm County Building Department Director Scott Minard was also present Monday to help discuss the ongoing issue. He said while something “definitely” has to be done, he thinks the township should be responsible, not the county. However, he noted that township officials have told them they don’t want to spend the money.

“That’s how it’s been with all the other townships,” Minard said. “My major concern has always been if the county gets into this, we aren’t just doing one township, we’re doing 20 townships. We’re opening a whole can of worms. There’s absolutely no way the county could afford to get into something like this.”

Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer agreed that the county does not have a history of tearing down condemned properties.

“We have not really torn down any houses within the county,” Hyzer said. “It’s usually done by the township itself. At times, the county has helped the township with the process of the law, but we have never torn anything down and put it on the tax roll itself.”

Richland Township officials have previously tried to get the county government involved, but to no avail. In September 2012, Richland Township Supervisor Dennis Wright asked commissioners to tear down Beach’s house and put the cost on the tax bill. However, commissioners chose to place Wright’s written request on file and took no further action, noting that township officials could tear down the building themselves if they wanted.

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