Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners once again shut down in court over privately held land within Prairie View Park

Building by water

Prairie View Cottage

After years-long battle and several lost court cases, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners was once again handed a loss by Kalamazoo County Circuit Court in the county’s condemnation case regarding the Johnson/Talanda family cottage within Prairie View Park. Judge Curtis Bell denied the county’s latest attempt to take the property summarily through eminent domain on Thursday, February 9.

The county has lost several cases over the past seven years. In the fall of 2022, the county finally agreed to enter into settlement discussions in order to continue coexisting peacefully with the families as they have done for over 60 years. The newly constituted board of commissioners had communicated to the families that they were opposed to condemnation, giving the families renewed hope for a resolution in order to avoid the high cost of litigation.

“After spending months working with the county’s attorneys to reach an agreement, which would have ended years-long litigation over the Johnson/Talanda family cottage, the county’s attorneys decided to file a summary disposition motion asking for the immediate transfer of ownership to the county based upon a strained reading of the Uniform Condemnation and Procedures,” said Randall Levine, managing partner at Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law, who is representing some family members. “The county once again is spending thousands of tax payer dollars in an attempt to gain land that they have no right to obtain through condemnation. The county has not been able to prove need for the property, which is the very essence of the Condemnation Act.”

“The county’s stubborn insistence upon pursuit of condemnation of this family cottage has not only been an exorbitant waste of taxpayer dollars, but has caused irreparable harm and emotional stress on these families. If they continue down this path, they will have spent well over one hundred thousand dollars in legal fees alone and will be required to pay the families fees as well unless they prevail which is extremely unlikely based upon the fact that there is no necessity for the taking which is required under the UCPA.”

In 2022, the court ordered past legal fees incurred by the families involved to be paid by the county due to errors in filings by the county’s attorney.

For over seven years, the Talanda and Johnson families have been fighting the county from taking their cottage inside Kalamazoo County’s Prairie View Park. It has been in the family since 1949 – 14 years before Prairie View Park opened. With 142 feet of shoreline on Gourdneck Lake, the property is located in an area of the park rarely used by visitors and seldomly maintained by the county.

Based exclusively on their interpretation of an old agreement, the county has claimed they have rights to ownership of the land the cottage sits on, has threatened to take the gate keys from the family, changed the gate lock, and filed 2 condemnation suits in their unsuccessful relentless quest to take this property away from hardworking Kalamazoo taxpaying families.

“This is government at its worst,” said Levine.

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