PAW PAW — With a split vote, Van Buren County commissioners this week decided they will not sell county-owned lots in the Syndicate Park subdivision on the lakeshore.

This came after Dan Williamson, who, with his wife, wants to buy several lots, laid out different scenarios about the properties, including land swaps.

Syndicate Park is a subdivision located on the north boundary of the county’s North Point Land Preserve. Located within the preserve and partly into Syndicate Park, is a large sand dune. The dune moves and has obliterated several buildings. In recent years the county has put money into stabilizing the dune in hopes of stopping it.

Recently Dan and Melody Williamson and Kimberly Coady-Hawkins have expressed interest in buying some of the county-owned lots in the subdivision.

The county owns about 80 lots, which it mostly got from unpaid back taxes. Syndicate Park was platted in 1910 as a promotion by the Syndicated Press of Chicago to sell newspaper subscriptions to the Chicago Tribune. Lots were given away to people who subscribed to that newspaper for a number of years. The problem was the lots on the 80-acre parcel were too small to conform with zoning and some were even underwater.

When the potential buyers surfaced, commissioners directed the county administrator to come up with a recommendation, which was to retain them to help protect the dune from destabilization. Dan Williamson objected, saying that conservation groups support his plan, and afterward a committee took his input under consideration along with the recommendation.

Administrator Faul this week stuck with his original recommendation that the county retain the lots. “I think the idea was to preserve the dune from further development,” Faul told commissioners.

There had also been discussion at a previous meeting that the lots will continue to rise in value as time goes on.

When the vote came, commissioners Paul Schincariol and Donald Hanson dissented. Commissioner Mike Chappell was absent, resulting in a 4-2 vote in favor of not selling.

Hanson said he had voted to sell because in 2007 the commission decided to put the lots up for sale and let the owners build on them. “I’m consistent,” Hanson said.