GT County Seeks to Buy Camp Greilick Property - But Faces Competing Offer
By Beth Milligan | Feb. 9, 2024
Grand Traverse County is seeking to buy the 200-acre former Camp Greilick property to turn into a public park, offering “close to” the full asking price of $3.25 million to Rotary Camps & Services, according to County Administrator Nate Alger. Following a two-hour closed session Wednesday, county commissioners voted to authorize Alger to send revised terms and continue negotiations for the property. However, Rotary Camps & Services has received a “good offer” from another buyer and is working toward a purchase agreement with that party, according to Executive Director Matt McDonough – with the identity of the buyer undisclosed and plans for the property unknown.
Rotary Camps & Services listed the property for sale in December with Douglas Meteyer of Keller Williams. The listing includes 3,300 feet of water frontage on Rennie Lake, Spider Lake, and Bass Lake, a large dining hall with commercial kitchen, and several year-round residences totaling 18,617 square feet. An additional 8,017 square feet of summer-use cabins and buildings are also included in the real estate package. A conservation easement on the property restricts some of the options for the site. The land can’t be divided – explaining why all 200 acres are for sale as one parcel – and the property’s natural features are protected from development. However, the easement did contemplate potential expansion on the site – such as the addition of more buildings – and allows for some commercial uses, like campgrounds.
Prior to the site being listed, Grand Traverse County and Rotary Camps & Services were in talks for months last year about the county acquiring the property, according to both Alger and McDonough. The county originally contemplated putting either a juvenile justice center or a mental health facility on the property. However, funding fell through for the juvenile center and the mental health facility was ultimately located at Munson. At that point, discussions switched to the county acquiring the property for public recreational use, Alger says.
McDonough says Rotary Camps & Services received an initial offer from the county, but that it wasn’t an “acceptable” one. That’s not necessarily due to price, but to other conditions as well, McDonough says. “There's a lot more to an offer than a purchase price,” he says. “There’s also timing and other contingencies. We're taking many factors into consideration, one of which is the buyer's ability to close.” Alger says timing appears to be a major factor in negotiations. Grand Traverse County needs time to complete due diligence on the property, including environmental assessments and a review of the conservation easement. Municipalities also typically move at a slower pace than private parties due to the timing of board, funding, and legal reviews. “Government takes time, and we have to do things correctly,” Alger says.
Rotary Camps & Services countered the county’s first offer, according to Alger, with county commissioners discussing the property in closed session Wednesday and then voting to have Alger go back with revised terms. Commissioner Brad Jewett, who previously expressed skepticism about the county acquiring such a large parcel after just offloading Twin Lakes Park to Long Lake Township, was the sole ‘no’ vote against continuing negotiations. Alger says a new offer is headed to Rotary Camps & Services that attempts to “close the gap” between what the two organizations want from a deal. Alger says the county has the money to purchase the former Camp Greilick site, with sources to potentially include county American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, other fund balances, and/or an internal loan.
However, Rotary Camps & Services has another offer on the table it is currently pursuing, according to McDonough. Due to the sensitive nature of negotiations, the exact details of the offers are being kept confidential. McDonough declined to identify the other buyer (including whether it’s a public or private entity), whether the offer is higher than the county’s, and the intended plans for the site – including whether it would be available for any type of community use.
McDonough notes Rotary Camps & Services gave the county “a lot of time” to pursue the property before listing it on the market last year. There are also numerous sites already available for public recreational use in the area, he says, including 300 adjacent acres Rotary Camps & Services agreed to sell to the City of Traverse City to expand the Brown Bridge Quiet Area. McDonough adds that Rotary Camps & Services originally tried to redevelop the property for community use as a new venture called Greilick Outdoor Recreation and Education Center, or GO-REC. But that proposal was met with “pretty stark opposition,” he says, leading Rotary Camps & Services to abandon the plan and ultimately list the property for sale.
Alger acknowledges Rotary Camps & Services has “been patient” in talks, but points out the county has also been working toward a deal in “good faith” during that time. “I think it’s in the best interest of the community that the county owns it and not a private buyer,” Alger says. “But it’s completely up to Rotary. It’s their property, and they can do what they want with it.” Alger says the county has had preliminary conversations with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy about a potential partnership at the site, similar to how the two organizations work together at Maple Bay Natural Area. “We’d like to continue that relationship,” Alger says. “But first we’d need to get through this process and get the parcel purchased.”
Pictured: The former Camp Greilick property, as featured in its real estate listingComment