Farmer caught in zoning war with Holland Township

Ottawa County

OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The fight continues over a popular pop-up farmers market in Ottawa County.

Visser Farms and Holland Township have been going back and forth on the issue of zoning restrictions since the township forced it to suddenly close about a year ago.

“I have well over a semi load of potatoes, carrots and onions that will probably get dumped because I have not been allowed to sell it,” Phil Visser, owner of Visser Farms, said.

The farming community in Ottawa County is not thrilled with the lack of progress being made in the case of the Vissers Farmers’ market.

“How can you table a decision for a year?” said Joe Miedema, owner of JW Greenhouses in Holland. “That’s not leadership.”

The market on Chicago Drive near US-31 sat empty since last summer.

Mark Hop, the owner of the property, said he gave the Vissers permission and does not understand the township’s decision.

“The township did not grant approval for that,” stated John Said, director of community development for Holland Charter Township. “The farmers market that you’re speaking of opened without township authorization.”

The township’s currently conducting a study looking into amending the zoning rules. The planning commission wanted a full report of the issue, creating a subcommittee to do it.

“The subcommittee then met in December and then again in, I want to say February, to discuss this issue,” he said. “They were not able to come to a conclusion on a recommendation on that previous text amendment application. So, it was kicked back to the planning commission in its entirety for the March meeting.”

The rule is that farmers markets can locate on land that is not within a condominium, 165 feet of a residence or home, or on platted land — a legal method of dividing property from the township.

But Said suggested a possible workaround if the Vissers were to operate indoors at the site.

“They might need a building permit and they would need occupancy to go ahead and do whatever they’re doing,” he said. “But because that’s considered a retail use, it could be located in the building with just administrative approval on the part of the township.”

He says there is no number on the amount of tax dollars that have gone into changing this zoning rule over the last several months. And there is still work to be done.

“There’s a pretty good chance of something being done,” Said told News 8. “Again, how long that takes, what that might look like at the end of it all — we don’t know right now because it is just under study.”

Meanwhile, a farmer continues to wait.

“We’re telling them to please get it right,” Visser said. “We’re giving you an opportunity to serve the people who voted you in and are paying your salaries.”

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