Salted with Sharks

Putney Sues Village over Bay Valley Inn Property

In Breaking, Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Politics, Uncategorized on April 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm

UPDATES 

* The office of Plunkett Cooney confirmed yesterday (4/9) that Gretchen Olsen is representing the Village and its agents in the Putney litigation.

** Channel 7&4 reported on the case yesterday (4/9) evening. The video may be viewed here. Note that because of the ongoing litigation, the news reporter could not get any comment from council members, and she apparently didn’t try very hard to get a comment from anyone else, either.—Emily Votruba

At about 5 pm on Wednesday, IPR’s Bob Allen reported on fruit farmer Loy Putney’s suit against the Village of Elberta. We’ll post a link to the IPR story when it’s available, in which you can hear audio of the March Village Council Meeting that IPR obtained from the Alert.

The Alert obtained a copy of the lawsuit, filed March 28, from the County Clerk on Wednesday morning. Village president Reginald Manville, clerk Sharyn Bower, trustee Kenneth Holmes, and zoning administrator Carl Noffsinger are named in the suit.

Putney is accusing the Village leadership of racism in denying him a permit to use the Bay Valley Inn Property for migrant worker housing. Putney does not yet own the property, but at the last Village Council meeting he produced an affidavit from the current owner, First Bank Mt. Pleasant, attesting their intent to sell it to him and giving him the authority to seek permits.

According to IPR, he says Elberta Village officials “made arbitrary decisions to deny him a permit three times over the past few months. And in a public meeting last month, council member Ken Holmes seems to refer to Putney as a ‘rhubarb’ and his project as a ‘trash house.'” The station then aired audio of Ken Holmes saying this: “We don’t want just any rhubarb coming in there and making a trash house out of that place.”

Putney’s attorney, his nephew Brad Putney, has notified the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and IPR said that department has undertaken an investigation of the allegations. Neither IPR nor the Alert have been successful in getting comments on the situation from Village leadership, on or off the record.—Emily Votruba

A description of Loy Putney’s operation from the site MichiganAgLabor

The complete IPR web story

  1. Wow! Excitement doesn’t need to be this close! Did Bob Allen talk with The Alert?

    • Bob Allen spoke with Emily Votruba of the Alert (that’s me). That’s how he obtained the recording of the public meeting, which I also supplied to one of the council members and to the Village Treasurer. The council meeting is a public forum and I don’t hesitate to provide recordings to anyone who wants them. But I didn’t feel comfortable commenting on the record/on tape about the situation because I didn’t feel like I had enough facts myself and I didn’t want to make the situation worse for anyone–I could have spoken on my own behalf but my role with the Alert kind of complicates that and I didn’t want my opinion to be confused with the “Alert’s” opinion. I have a copy of the filed lawsuit and I will be reporting on the matter, to the best of my ability and to whatever extent I can ascertain the facts, in the next issue of the paper.

  2. By reading the description of the Putney operation, it seems they already have sufficient housing for the number of workers they employ. Why do they need more and in Elberta of all places when their farms aren’t very close?

    My second question is, why would someone want to upset so many people? Is having a camp in a village that you do not live/pay taxes/vote in so important that you will be not only hated, but remember by all as the person that brought a migrant camp to a village that is trying to grow and modernize?

    • The questions you are posing are good ones. A very important question is this. Does any one know why Mr. Putney wants to use the building for migrant housing? And also why is this upsetting so many people? For crying out loud, is letting someone use the building for something productive really that bad, when it has been sitting abandoned, and rotting right along the main thouroughfare? Let him use the building, unless you have a better idea for the use of it, instead of letting it sit there. If you have no other better reason why you can’t let him house people with different colored skin, then maybe you are racist!

  3. Not about the color its not racist its about the fact that farmers do little or no upkeep on migrant housing. Never have never will.

  4. I think skin color has nothing to do with this. Why is Loy Putney’s migrant housing so bad he can’t use it? Maybe because the workers who use it are not going to do upkeep and obviously neither is Loy. If he wants housing it should be near his farm and the jobs the workers would be doing. Why doesn’t he build something in his back yard?
    I’ve seen a lot of migrant housing and it is not pretty, which is what Loy seems to have let his become.
    My advice would be not to play the race card,don’t tick off a whole village and take responsibility for your workers and their housing on your land.

  5. Has nobody heard the term Rhubarb used to refer to trouble, conflict, fight….When did rhubarb become a racist term. Have you ever seen migrant housing that wasn’t trash

  6. I used to work for the village and racism did not start at that council meeting It has been there for a long time

  7. I think the council has every right to deny permits. It’s not because they are racist, it’s because they have the power and the right to stand up for their village. Check around, those few on council aren’t the only ones who don’t want that developed into migrant housing. They aren’t being mean when they say they don’t want a trash house. Have you seen migrant housing? All the places I’ve seen look like shacks. They ARE trash houses. Obviously Loy’s are trashy, otherwise he wouldn’t need new property to destroy. Do some up keep and your place wouldn’t be falling apart, so you wouldn’t need to bring your migrants into the village. How are you going to transport them? I’m sure not all have veichles and licenses!

  8. Since this issue has partially been resolved and taken care of by the council members, should we just forget about the whole issue? I think not. Number one, let your mind think like a migrant worker, if you are in fact open minded. What do the migrant workers think about housing. First of all we have to realize the situation where they are coming from. Most if not all come from very, very poor conditions, places where no human should have to live. The shack towns that they come from in Mexico are nothing more than cardboard, newspapers, mud, and tin cans. Does this sound like very habitable living conditions to you? When they migrate over here to find some decent work, they are very happy to be able to live in what is in there eyes looks like heaven. They are thankful to have a concrete floor, a decent roof over their heads, and running water. I know that Mr. Putney could explain why he can’t house them at his own place, and I’m sure if he were asked kindly to explain he would have a good reason why he can’t, and as for me I won’t begin to draw conclusions why, because that is simply not my place. Number two, if the county board members will not allow Mr. Putney to renovate the place to house workers, then they need to do something about the place, because right now it is nothing more than a rundown motel, being used for nothing, and let to rot, under the pretense that if it were allowed to house migrants it would look like a trash house. I know from experience that migrants can keep the upkeep on their home very well. Heres a challenge for all of you. Take a moment to visit a farm and talk to the migrants who are working there. Take a moment and ask them anything you want. They are some of the happiest people I have ever met. What brings them such joy. It is the chance to live in a free country where they are given decent housing, a chance to work with their hands, and enough money in their pockets to be able to support their families. And the sense of security where they don’t have drug cartels breathing down their necks. Last of all take a moment and reflect on this before you make rash decisions that will affect people just like you. Just because you have the power to do so does not mean for one second that you can make a decision just because you can, that is not why you are in the position of power. You are there to make a better life for everyone.

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