KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Hidden deep within Prairie View Park, the Heeter-Johnson and Talanda family has owned a 142 feet of lakefront of property on Gourdneck Lake since the original owners purchased it in 1949.
Randall Levine, representing the families, said the family has lived and co-existed peacefully with Kalamazoo County parks and all of the users of the park.
According to the county's resolution from Sept. 3, 2019, in 1963, when Prairie View Park was established, the county and the original owners came to an agreement that if the property, which is less than an acre, were to be sold that the county would be the first to have the chance to purchase the property.
The resolution also says the original owners agreed to not rent, assign to people or persons who are not parties of the agreement.
“The government just can take property unless there is a need and in this case there is no need,” said Levine.
The last surviving signor passed away in March 2019 and now the county wants full ownership of the property.
The family said the county interpretations pf the agreement is incorrect.
“This agreement was designed to prevent a sale of the property outside of the family. The property has always passed by succession. It has never gone outside the family,” said Levine
The family accused Kalamazoo County of violating the Open Meeting Act. They claimed they had several closed-door meetings on how to gain control of the property.
Newschannel 3 reached out to Kalamazoo County Commissioners to comment about the allegations and why they wanted the piece of land.
“I'm sorry but no one in Kalamazoo County government should comment on this as it's in litigation," Kalamazoo County Chair Julie Rogers said.
The family said they have tried on several occasions to talk with John Gisler, their district commissioner, but were told they cannot speak to them at all.
According to court document, the family filed a restraining order against the county in July 2019 after the county intended to lock the families out of the property.
Judge Alexander Lipsey granted the family’s restraining order saying, “injury would be irreparable because the loss suffered would be in the nature of barring enjoyment by passage of time that cannot be recouped.”
Levine said all the family wants is answers.