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Family fears farm is in jeopardy
ANTWERP TOWNSHIP, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Van Buren County family fears their lifelong dream of owning a small farm is in jeopardy.
The debate is over an interpretation of an Antwerp Township zoning ordinance. Now the township wants them to get rid of half of their animals, something the family says would greatly impact their livelihood.
Raising chickens and selling their eggs is just one of the skills these boys have learned from living on a farm.
Three years ago, their parents, Kelly VanderKley and David Hunter, bought the foreclosed property in Mattawan and sunk nearly $50,000 into fixing it up.
VanderKley says its been a lifelong dream to live on a farm, grow food for her family and the community and teach her sons some life lessons along the way. I couldn't be any more proud of what he's learned. He's learned how to take care of chickens, learned their anatomy, he has in depth knowledge of where food comes from.
Since Antwerp Townships zoning ordinance was hard to interpret, VanderKley says she asked the township to inspect her property to make sure they were in compliance.
But then the couple received a series of conflicting letters.
On May 3, we received a letter we were in compliance. On May 23, we received a letter we were not in compliance and needed to put up extra fencing, Hunter says. June 7 we received a letter after putting the fence up we were again compliant and then July 22, we received a letter saying we have 90 days to get rid of a certain amount of our animals because we are no longer compliant. Hunter says that makes him feel horrible and confused.
VanderKley says the township's latest request, to eliminate more than half of her animals, is in response to her neighbors complaining that their farm devalues surrounding properties, everything from the odor, to the noise, the amount of animals ... even saying their honey bees are scary.
I have been nothing but honest about our quantities. I've never misled anyone, VanderKley says.
She says she's frustrated because they've gone above and beyond the township's rules and requests, even building a fence to block the manure, and still its not enough.
Its an entirely different matter when someone is asking you to give up your dream that you have for your life, VanderKley says.
The Antwerp Township board declined to be an interviewed by Newschannel 3, but sent this statement, saying, "While we understand the concerns voiced by the owner of the property and the sympathetic outpouring of support from others in the community, the township has an obligation to consider the health, safety and welfare of the entire community."
The entire statement from Antwerp Township is available to read here.