FAIRPLAIN TOWNSHIP — A resident became emotional at a Fairplain Township meeting Monday night as the board addressed a blight issue at her address and decided to get an attorney involved.
The board discussed a concern on about Jessica Vanconant’s home, located at 1762 W. Boyer Road, which was destroyed in a fire on July 16 — the fourth fire in six months on Boyer Road between Carlsen and Brown roads.
According to Fairplain Township Supervisor Tom Sova, he has been in contact with the Vanconant family regarding blight concerns since February. The property was cited by the Montcalm County Health Department for a disconnected sewer and for “garbage” being on the property earlier this year, according to Sova.
“The health, building and fire departments are all saying the township needs to take action,” Sova explained.
According to Robert Cusack, a real estate broker from Lake Odessa who is helping Vanconant in this situation, a week before the fire the health department sent Vanconant a letter stating they were back in compliance.
Sova said he did not receive that letter and the last he knew the property was still in violation.
Since the home has burned down, Vanconant and her family have moved into a camper on the property, which Sova said he had already told the family they couldn’t do at the time. Vanconant said she wants to stay on the property as she believes items will be stolen if she is living at a different location.
Mary DeGram, whose house caught fire twice in six months at 1680 W. Boyer Road, spoke during public comment, asking about the occupancy permit for Vanconant’s camper.
According to DeGram, her family had to pay for the permit to stay on their property, but the Vanconant family is currently staying in the camper without the occupancy permit.
“We were told we had 24 hours to get (the permit), so we paid for one,” said DeGram, noting she believed Vanconant did not obtain one. “That’s where I feel it isn’t right.”
The board did not address DeGram’s concern as it was made during public comment, a time where the board takes comments into consideration, but does not address them at the time of the meeting.
“I will do anything to stay on the property,” said Vanconant through tears. “I’ll pay whatever to get the permit.”
Sova said from the beginning, he has been asking for a timeline from Cusack of what was happening with the property, but has yet to see one.
The board approved having the township attorney send an official letter to the Vanconant family to give them 30 days to clean the property. The next step will be for the township to get a court order to clean the property.
“This isn’t something I want to do,” Sova told The Daily News, but noted the concern had to be addressed. “It’s tough.”
Cusack said they have a dumpster full from cleaning and planned to have a trailer on the property within two weeks. However, because of the board’s decision, he said he doesn’t believe the trailer will be in place for months.
As for a new home, Cusack had plans for a 1980 mobile home that is 14 feet wide to be placed on the property, which the board denied as it violates the township ordinance.
In May, the board approved a building ordinance that requires the minimum flooring area of a single family residence has to be 780 feet and have a width of 18 feet. Also, the lot sizes and setbacks have remained the same as before, however, a single family residence more than 10 years old cannot be moved onto a lot within the township.
“You can’t do that, it’s discrimination (against single-wide trailers),” said Cusack many times to the board members.
Sova said an attorney and members of the Michigan Township Association looked over the new ordinance without a problem. He said the building ordinances apply to new construction as well as trailers.
After much discussion, Cusack asked for a variance for a temporary electric pole on the property for running water to the camper, which was denied by the board.
After the meeting Sova said there are options such as EightCAP and other organizations for the Vanconant family so they do not have to stay in the camper.