WAYLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Gun Lake Tribe plans to develop a 2.75-mile stretch of land it owns between its casino and the city of Wayland, dramatically changing the landscape, tribal leaders said.

The plan: To basically build its own town.

“The goal is no more cornfields at some point,” Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians Tribal Chairman Bob Peters told News 8 Monday. “You’re going to have that development out there, whether it’s restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, manufacturing, so the skyline from the casino to Wayland is going to dramatically change over the next few years.”

The development plans were first reported by MiBiz.

Tribal leaders said they started buying up land after the Gun Lake Casino opened in 2011. The tribe now owns about 1,200 acres north of the casino to the city, from US-131 east to the railroad tracks. Most of it is farmland.

Property in Wayland Township owned by the Gun Lake Tribe. (Nov. 7, 2022)
Property in Wayland Township owned by the Gun Lake Tribe. (Nov. 7, 2022)

“We’ll acquire lands whenever we can,” Peters said. “Anything that’s contiguous to our property, we want to put into trust.”

Allegan County property records reviewed by News 8 provided details on five properties bought by the tribe in recent years in that area, a total of 181 acres bought for $4.3 million. The biggest sale: $1.3 million for 47 acres on 132nd Avenue in 2018.

That same year, the tribe paid Jerry DeYoung $350,000 for an old farmhouse and 3 acres on 132nd.

“We sold out to them, our neighbors did, too,” DeYoung said.

DeYoung and his family lived there for more than 30 years until the tribe came along with its offer.

“We were the last house on the north side of the road,” he said.

The tribe tore down the house and the barn, leaving only a mailbox, a driveway and big plans.

A mailbox without a home on what used to be Jerry DeYoung's property. It's the only thing left after the farmhouse on the land was demolished. (Nov. 7, 2022)
The mailbox on what used to be DeYoung’s property. (Nov. 7, 2022)

The tribe plans to put most of the land into trust, which means it would not be subject to taxes and would be governed by the tribe.

“It’s one way we exercise our sovereignty as a tribe,” Peters said. “The tribe’s very big on sovereignty and we’ll continuously do that.”

It would build the roads and install the utilities.

On Wednesday, the tribe will start putting together a master plan, a process that is expected to take up to six months. It hopes to start at least some of the construction next year.

“In that development plan, we’re going to explore all types of businesses, opportunities along the corridor to really make it a destination and complement what we have going on already,” said Monica King, CEO of Gun Lake Investments. “We want to make it a draw for folks to not only visit the casino but visit all the other things we’ll have going on.”

A sign warns would-be trespassers of video surveillance on property in Wayland Township owned by the Gun Lake Tribe. (Nov. 7, 2022)
A sign warns would-be trespassers of video surveillance on property owned by the Gun Lake Tribe. (Nov. 7, 2022)

The tribe says it’s a project that could take a couple decades to finish.

“I think the possibilities are endless,” Peters said.

DeYoung, who sold his land to the tribe, said he has no problems with the tribe’s plans.

“As far as I’m concerned, none of that’s going to happen before my time,” he said. “That’s all going to be after the fact. By the time I’m dead and gone, who cares?

“You can’t beat progress,” he said.