Facing a lawsuit, Plymouth City Council approves housing development on former golf course site

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Reversing an earlier decision under threat of a lawsuit, the Plymouth City Council has decided to let developers build 229 high-end homes on the former Hollydale Golf Course.

The council approved the project on a 5-2 vote at its Tuesday meeting, resisting pressure from opponents who campaigned against the plan with letters, fliers, lawn signs, a Facebook group and a petition bearing more than 2,000 signatures.

Don Hoffert, one of about 25 residents who spoke at the meeting, said the issue amounted to a test for the City Council of its core values.

“Vote no,” he urged council members. “Your character is being tested here — stay strong.”

Mayor Jeffry Wosje said that allowing the development was a tough decision.

“I don’t know anything that I can recall, in 11 years I’ve been on the council, [that] I’ve put more time and effort into,” Wosje said at the meeting.

Most of the residents who spoke said they worried about increased traffic in an area that was already congested. A couple mothers said they feel unsafe walking there with small children as it is, and others bemoaned the loss of 160 acres of green space, trees and wildlife habitat.

“If we lose this, it can never be recovered,” Patricia Haertel told the council.

A few residents complained about losing the city’s only 18-hole public golf course. While the property no longer holds the former course or its features, some residents have implored the city to buy it and open another course there.

City officials did consider buying the land, assessed at more than $25 million, but decided last summer not to spend the money. Golf courses are widely considered not profitable enough to warrant the investment.

Allowing homes on the property will require changing the site’s zoning to residential. The current zoning allows public entities such as a park, school or fire station, or institutions such as a church, hospital or assisted-living facility, on the land.

Only one resident at Tuesday’s meeting, Marty McCarthy, spoke in favor of the development. He said he didn’t want his taxes to rise if the city were to buy the property or challenge the lawsuit and said that many Plymouth residents agreed with him.

“I think the people who’ve been speaking today are the loud minority,” McCarthy said.

The council voted against the project last November, prompting a lawsuit by the two-person local developer team operating as Hollydale GC.

In April, the developers agreed to suspend the suit while city officials considered a slightly altered plan with the same number of single-family homes, priced at roughly $1 million to $2 million.

City officials declined to discuss details of the suit at the meeting. Adam Huhta, a resident who identified himself as a trial lawyer, assured council members that “the facts and the law are on your side” if they rejected the development.

“Your decision will be upheld unless the developer can establish there was no rational basis for your decision,” Huhta said.

Jake Walesch, one of the developers, spoke at the meeting and said he and his business partner had been targets of harassment and vandalism.

“What we’ve had is a pretty scorched-earth marketing campaign,” he said.

In one incident, he said, equipment at the site “was smashed with baseball bats, windshield smashed up, mirrors smashed off, dashboard smashed up, keys stolen.”

Walesch said they had faced “accusations of incompetence, ineptitude, collusion, corruption … fliers showing the first floor of people’s homes buried in 6 feet of water as if that was a realistic scenario,” and a young boy riding a scooter past the site who “looks us right in the eye and flips us the bird.”

Katy Read • 612-673-4583

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