Skip to comments.Barkley edgy but hopeful in zoning dispute (Belated Michigan Standoff Update)
Posted on 09/23/2003 11:15:18 AM PDT by Pest
Barkley edgy but hopeful in zoning dispute
BY FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER
HORTON BAY - Bay Township excavator Lyle Barkley, who has vowed to resist by force any attempt to enforce township zoning violations against him, says if he can just be left alone he'll be able to get back on his feet.
"It's the slowest year I've had in 15 years of being in business, and now with all of this going on, I can't get out of my driveway to do it," said Barkley, 55.
"I have some work lined up and if they'd just leave us alone we can do it," he said in an interview after Sheriff George T. Lasater met with him at dawn on his driveway Thursday and promised to set up a meeting of all parties involved next week.
Barkley appeared relieved after the sheriff promised he would take no action against him, his wife, Shirley, or his 22-year-old daughter, Kim, who were named in a district court order to remove three manufactured homes on their property by this morning, or face thousands of dollars in fines and possible imprisonment.
Barkley's vow to resist by force of arms any attempt to enter his property, announced a week ago by Norman Olson of Alanson, senior adviser to the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines, drew support from militia groups around the country, who promised to send hundreds of armed members to the site if a confrontation occurred.
Olson said today that despite the positive outcome of the morning meeting with Lasater and himself, the Barkleys feel "hounded and harassed and frightened."
"Last night Lyle called me saying he'd just seen people with guns around his property. He called 9-1-1, and the sheriff's office sent a patrol car out there. Lasater said it turned out to be some young kids with BB guns, but no shots were fired," Olson said.
"I told Lyle, 'You've got to trust Sheriff Lasater.'"
Lasater confirmed Olson's report this morning and said he was still in the process of setting up the meeting with himself, the Barkleys, township and county officials, and Olson next week.
Despite declaring indigency, necessary for the court to waive a $7,800 bond for the Barkleys to appeal the district court order to the circuit court, Barkley has turned down offers of financial help, hoping he will be able to weather the pressures himself.
Barkley said he pays his taxes and his debts, including a commitment to his Charlevoix attorney Joe Hayes to excavate a pond on Hayes' property in partial payment for representing him in court on April 10, where District Judge Richard May upheld the township's claim that the Barkleys had violated its zoning ordinance.
Barkley said he paid Hayes $500 at the time and received a bill for $1,400 more for legal services for the day, which Barkley has agreed to pay in services.
Barkley said he asked Hayes to represent him at an enforcement hearing before Judge May on Aug. 28, but Hayes declined on grounds he didn't want to get involved in Barkley's claim that his property rights stemmed from "patent land" ownership of his property.
As a result, Barkley represented himself in court, where May dismissed the patent land arguments and found the Barkleys in contempt of court for failure to abide by his April decision ordering the removal of the three housing units within 90 days.
Hayes said the Barkley account was correct, and further that he sympathized with the Barkleys' plight and agreed that they had been treated unfairly by the township.
Barkley said he genuinely wants to work with the township's zoning administrator Randy Frykberg and the county building department in bringing the three disputed housing units up to code.
He said before the latest court order he had nearly completed replacing aluminum electrical wiring with copper, a major component of the township's complaints.
Olson said Barkley faces a Catch-22 situation.
"Why should Lyle improve the housing units if the court has ordered him to remove them? You can't get out to fix up the place because the people that want you to fix it up are hounding and harassing you," he said.
Township officials said they would have no comment on the latest developments. Earlier they said they had tried to work with Barkley but found him unresponsive and felt they had no other means to enforce their zoning ordinance but through a court order.
Barkley said he had tried for weeks to reach Frykberg, but the only communication he received was a letter advising him he had 14 days to move the units off his property.