The last piece of the puzzle in the negotiated agreement for the sale of the old mothballed Moline Elementary building may have been put in place Thursday evening.
The Leighton Township Board voted 4-0 to adopt and ordinance amendment that will permit new owner Steve Austin to use the structure as a home and a business. Austin needed the change in order to conform with the zoning in the area.
There was some confusion about the ordinance amendment when Trustee John Hooker said it would apply only to the Moline Elementary building, which has been idle since 2003. Other township officials indicated they believe it applies to a much wider area, perhaps the entire township.
“I thought this (amendment) was only for that parcel,” Hooker told his colleagues.
“I would have interpreted it as generic for other situations,” said Supervisor Steve Deer.
Regardless, the Township Board went ahead with adoption.
“They’ve already been delayed,” Hooker said. “This amendment is necessary for the project to continue.”
Clerk Mary Lou Nieuwenhuis agreed, saying, “We don’t want to delay this project any longer.”
She added that if anyone in the future approaches the Township Board or the Planning Commission with this kind of problem, it can be dealt with accordingly.
Austin purchased the old elementary building last year in hopes of moving his equipment repair business into it and using part of it for a residence. He also made an agreement for use of the adjacent softball fields by the Moline Softball Association.
Leighton Township now owns part of the parcel on which the old elementary building sits.
The Wayland Union school district sold the building for $45,600 and Leighton Township bought 3.9 acres of the surrounding property for $24,000 to ensure the Moline Softball Association will continue and expand use of the softball fields already on site.
The entire project has been referred to as a “win-win-win” situation for the schools, the community of Moline, the township and Austin. The schools will be able to unload a building they no longer want or have use for, the community will see the building spared demolition, the township will have more space for its famous softball program that attracts a lot of people and Austin will be able to establish a business.
Austin, co-owner of Happy Camper Mobile RV Service and Retro Rentals of Caledonia with his wife, Shelly, do all phases of repair and restoration to campers, motor homes and vintage campers. They also restore vintage campers for Retro Rentals.