By Jessica Mathews /

A unique equestrian and condo development appears to slowly heading toward final approvals in Putnam Township.

The Planning Commission held a nearly four-hour meeting Wednesday night, with the majority of discussion centered on a planned unit development and site plan review for Equus Hills. A PUD is a tool that allows projects to be done if they provide recognizable benefits and what’s being proposed meets certain standards and is deemed better than what could be done conventionally under typical standards.

The project would consist of 99 condominiums in a gated community on a 990-acre site with access off Schafer Road and then new internal streets. It would feature a public equestrian center, a clubhouse, restaurant and catering, community access to Bentley and Shehan Lakes, equestrian trails, hiking and biking trails, along with open spaces and wetland vistas throughout the development. The property was formerly used as a Girl Scout camp.

A homeowners association would be responsible for maintaining all infrastructures within the development, to be paid for through a special assessment district set up at the time of construction.

A public hearing was held and there was a lot of additional back and forth with residents, many who raised concerns with Bentley Lake. Residents stated people want peace and quiet on Bentley Lake as it’s a small pristine lake that residents have been trying to preserve that’s used largely for fishing and kayaking. Other concerns were centered on traffic, effects on the lake from pervious surfaces, manure management plans, noise, hours of operation, environmental issues from runoff and salt usage in the winter and a public parking area for trail access.

Resident Tony Boudeman raised various issues about ecosystems and watercraft. She commented that it’s a big project and she hopes DeKroub doesn’t discount the concerns of those who have lived on the lake very quietly for a long time,

Applicant Joe DeKroub stated he felt the remaining items to be addressed were minor and he was willing to work with residents – asserting that this will be a very unique and one-of-a-kind development that will be known all over because there’s nothing like it in the state.

It was noted during the meeting the township board could have to take action to set a designated 10mph speed limit under a state Act. There was also talk of designating it as not being an all-sports lake. It was further stated the township has an ordinance regarding the number of horses for individual lots and manure control is regulated.

The Commission agreed the parking area near a trail connection and entranceway could be removed, which would still result in a superior design element and public access to trails. The trails would connect to others in the areas and could be accessed by horse or bicycle but not by vehicle.

The Fire Department had no comments but requested they be kept involved to make sure roads are the right width and they can get equipment down trails.

The Commission approved a motion to table the review to the regular December meeting. Plans will be brought back to reflect updates and changes based on discussion.

Construction would be done in three phases and plans would need to go to the township board for final approval.