By Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Durand Board of Education invited the Lennon community to an open forum regarding the upcoming sale of Doyle Knight Elementary Monday, Feb. 29, and the meeting was well-attended by interested residents. Everyone got their chance to question the two bidders for the school, Victory Biker Church and HQ Adventure Academy, though the board did not make a decision that evening. A decision could come as early as Monday, March 14, during the next scheduled meeting of the board.
Many Lennon residents expressed their fears of noise and traffic, and they also questioned the community benefits of each group. The Victory Biker Church, which holds the high bid of $125,000, is already serving the Lennon area and has the support of many local residents. HQ Adventure Academy, which bid $15,000, is a for-profit business that many residents are clamoring for. Each has promised to work with the village to ease in the transition.
Apostle Brian McKay, of Victory Biker Church, addressed concerns about noise and safety by reminding those in attendance that only a small portion of his 200 parishioners are riders, and that motorcycle riders are among the most observant riders on the roads. He addressed the traffic concerns by assuring that churchgoers will not come through the Park Street neighborhood. He also explained that his church offers veteran and youth ministries that would benefit the community. Additionally, he vowed to help area volunteer organizations continue to support the small community, and he feels that his church would be an asset to the Lennon economy, despite its tax-free status.
Melanie and Stephen Pratt, the owners of the proposed HQ Adventure Academy, addressed noise concerns by promising a high privacy fence around the property, though they added that everyone would be welcome to use the grounds. They also informed the Lennon residents that they would use Carbon Dioxide-free paintball guns in an effort to cut down on the noise. To address the traffic issue, the Pratts also vowed to direct traffic through downtown instead of the quiet neighborhood off M-13. They have also adjusted their hours of operation in an effort to keep late-night noise and traffic to a minimum. In addition to being a taxpaying business, the Pratts are planning to host as many as 1,000 people per weekend, which could provide significant added revenue to the local economy. They also informed residents that they would hire an independent security company to further secure the property with electronic and physical monitoring.
Lennon Village President Rebecca Alderman-Smith spoke to each prospective buyer during the meeting and reminded them that additional parking and water detention would be necessary. She suggested each review the village’s zoning laws and the county storm water requirements before buying the property. Each group acknowledged that they will need to add additional parking, and each wants to work with the village throughout the process. HQ Adventure Academy would also need to acquire a Special Use permit to use the residential property for a commercial business, which is something the Pratts have already planned for.
Durand Superintendent Craig McCrumb reiterated the school district’s need to sell the property, noting that county birth rates are declining and that rehabbing the building could cost upwards of $1 million. He also explained that the district is paying approximately $30,000 per year to maintain Doyle Knight and Wilbur Bill elementary schools. He assured residents that they “are being heard,” and reminded everyone that both the bid deadline and the sale decision have been delayed to allow the community to have its say.
The board was to host a community forum for Bancroft residents to discuss the sale of Wilbur Bills, but inclement weather led the board to cancel the Wednesday meeting. It will be rescheduled, but DAS officials had not selected a date as of press time.