Royalton Township seeks compromise over trailers

Trailers are pictured last year along M-139 near Scottdale in Royalton Township. The township is offering to pay for the cost to move the trailers from the property.

ST. JOSEPH — After three years of trying to get several modular office trailers removed from a property along M-139, Royalton Township is trying another tactic.

Royalton trustees agreed to pay for the costs of moving the trailers from the property to avoid taking the property owner to court. Manager Steve Tilly said the move would solve problems for both parties.

“We understand they don’t have the money to move them, so we thought it would be cheaper for the township to pay to move the trailers than to waste all the time and money of going to court,” Tilly said.

The trailers were moved to the Royalton Township property three years ago with the intent of being built into a school for the Benton Harbor Girls Academy.

Patricia Quattrin is the executive director for the Benton Harbor Girls Association for Learning & Self-Esteem, which has a controlling interest over the girls academy.

The association was created as a 501(c)3 in 2006 with the intention of running the academy. The school was started to help Benton Harbor middle school girls improve their academics and confidence.

“It’s a nice offer that they’re making, but it all depends on what happens in Benton Harbor,” Quattrin told The Herald-Palladium on Tuesday.

For three years, Quattrin and the association has sought approval to build a school for the academy on seven lots in Benton Harbor. However, the project’s site plan has been repeatedly rebuffed by members of the city planning commission.

After discussing the association’s predicament with Benton Harbor’s new city manager, Quattrin said she is waiting to hear from his office before moving forward with the township’s offer.

“He (new City Manager Ellis Mitchell) was very open about it and said he is checking things out and will get back with me,” Quattrin said. “That’s a really good offer (from Royalton Township). The best thing for us is to move it to our Benton Harbor property.”

The association received the modular units three years ago from American Electric Power, which had been using them as management offices at the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman.

With no approval to begin building in Benton Harbor, Quattrin turned to her husband, Dale Quattrin, to have them stored on his M-139 property in Royalton Township.

Royalton Township’s Board of Trustees have repeatedly tried to get the Quattrins to remove the units, due to a zoning ordinance violation. The deadline to have them removed from the property has been moved back at twice in three years.

“It’s difficult because the property is Dale Quattrin’s, the trailers belong to the girls association, and Mrs. Quattrin runs the association,” Tilly said. “The association owns the trailers, so it’s like, ‘Who do we get a hold of?’”

Tilly said the township’s only line of communication has been with Mark Miller, who is serving as an attorney for the girls association.

Tilly said the board has not made a motion to spend any money yet because they don’t have a dollar amount regarding how much it would cost to remove the trailers.

Additionally, he said they want to know where the trailers would go.

“Pretty soon they’re not going to be any good for her use if they don’t take care of them,” Tilly said. “It’s a frustrating process because sometimes it takes three months to hear from her.”

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski