BERRIEN SPRINGS — Plans have changed a bit for the Verdant Hollow Farm project, but their overall goals of promoting organic farming and providing a place where people can commune with nature remain.
That was the message Tuesday night as Verdant Hollow owner Susan Flynn came to the Oronoko Township Planning Commission seeking to amend the special use permit she received two years ago under the “resort” section of the township zoning ordinance. Verdant Hollow is a 228-acre property on Garr Road.
Flynn asked and received permission from the planning commission to amend the 2017 special use permit so that she can split off 6.75 acres to build a home for the farm caretakers. The amendment was needed because the township’s zoning ordinance doesn’t allow for two principal residences on the same parcel of land.
Four neighbors came to Tuesday’s meeting to ask questions. Mary and Tim Diethrich asked about the placement of roads within the property and the extra traffic that is expected in coming months and years as construction starts.
“I’m concerned about all the traffic that will be in front of my house with the trucks coming in to construct the house and drives,” Mary Diethrich said. “I think it will be a problem to get out of my driveway.”
Mary Fischer said neighbors have all been “sitting on the edge of their seats” waiting to see if anything will happen with the project.
Flynn said after the meeting that construction of the caretakers’ new home will start soon and be done within a year. The next project will be to renovate the historic barn on the property to house a commercial kitchen and a gathering place for visitors. After that, construction will start on up to 18 cabins for visitors.
She noted that she and caretakers Molly and Brett Muchow have already hosted groups at the property, holding workshops on a variety of topics such as mushroom cultivation and friendly pests. “In the future, once the cabins are built, people can come and work and stay overnight,” she said. “We will also be hosting retreats.”
The permit approved two years ago and amended Tuesday night allows for a maximum of 72 guests at any given time. Hours of operation remain as they were before: daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with quiet hours of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The amendment approved Tuesday not only allows for the separate parcel for the caretaker residence, but also the removal of the grain bin building from the site plan, as it will now just be used for storage.