by Ron Kulak (from The Scarlett Sassafras)
On Thursday morning, Sept 24, 2008, the [Boy Scout Chicago Area Council] Board of Directors met and reviewed the current sales and litigation status of Owasippe Scout Reservation. Owasippe has been under a pending purchase agreement for $19.5-million with banker/investor Benjamin Smith III of Holland, Mich, since February 23, 2005. The sale has NOT been able to close because the camp's current township zoning is unable to accomodate Mr Smith's plans for residential development.
From credible sources, it has been reported that the CAC board unanimously voted to negotiate a settlement with Ben Smith III to terminate the outstanding sales contract to purchase Owasippe. I have no details as yet as to what the cost will be to do this but, until the settlement agreement is signed, nothing is official as yet. The prospects are very promising, however.
Smith allegedly had paid $100,000 in 2005 as an earnest money deposit when he signed the contract to buy the camp. Rumor has it that he is agreeable to terminate that purchase contract but at a cost that may be significant. The CAC board appears to be willing to pay an additional amount to cut its losses in order to get this whole unnecessary and costly mess behind them so their program agenda can move forward.
Owasippe is the linchpin to restoring the faith and trust of Scouters and the key to the future success of Chicago Area Council which is still under receivership by National BSA. CAC is currently operating under a Region-selected interim board of directors since the council electorate could not vote in a board this past Spring. Michael Hughes is still the council President, but the council is now being managed by a new Scout Executive, Chuck Dobbins, replacing Scouter-nemesis Jim Stone who retired in June after being with CAC for a very painful nine years.
I presume, but am not yet assured, that this may mean that CAC's appeal with the Michigan Appellate Court could die on the vine. If so, then the Muskegon Circuit Court decision to uphold the township's zoning of Owasippe would then stand as Forest/Recreational-Institutional. At this point, for CAC to continue such legal action would be folly and unnecessarily expensive. They've already blown over $1-million in professional fees in their suit of Blue Lake Township (their good neighbors of 98 years) to change the camp's zoning status to 'Residential' so that the Smith purchase agreement could go through. Along this bumpy road, CAC has incurred much ill-will among its own volunteers and the local citizenry of Western Michigan. The small Blue Lake Township dug in its heels to defend itself and valiantly won its case in the Muskegon Circuit Court earlier this year to avoid this problematic change in zoning and in its culture.
We have no further word on the future of Owasippe and how it is to be managed and operated (or owned). That may be Chapter II of this new book being written by Chuck Dobbins and the CAC Board. Owasippe's future and efficiency is still a concern and still needs to be addressed including its upkeep and marketing!
We have been told that there will be an official statement on the CAC website sometime soon. More details will be forthcoming.
Also see article on M-Live
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