Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the proper verbiage in the Webster Township easement as well as the correct amount of money raised by the Civil War Days event in 2011.
Members of the Dexter Area Historical Society (DAHS) breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday following a decision by the Webster Township Board of Trustees to grant a festival permit for its upcoming Civil War Days fundraiser on June 8-10.
The 5-0 vote was held during a special meeting of the board, and reversed a previous due to concerns over a conservation easement on the Gordon Hall property.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Dexter Village Trustee Ray Tell spoke in favor of the event, reiterating the goal of the historical society to pay off the mortgage and rehabilitate Gordon Hall, the original home of village founder Judge Samuel Dexter.
"If for no other reason, you should allow the event in order for the historical society to pay off their debt and then proceed with what was the original plan: take the money and rebuild the property," Tell said. "They are still working on paying down their loan. I don't think the historical society should have to come before the board every year to receive approval (for Civil War Days). Work out a 20 year agreement, it's something simple."
Board members granted the permit request with the stipulation that the event is in full compliance with the township's conservation easement. At issue is whether or not visitors will be able to drive over part of a hay field on the front portion of the Gordon Hall property near Island Lake Road owned by the township in order to park their vehicles on a portion of the property owned by Scio Township. Township trustees are concerned that the three-day traffic could have adverse effects on the agricultural use of the land.
Jim Smith, publicity chairman for Civil War Days, said the DAHS has interpreted the agricultural easement as allowing for personal motor vehicles to drive on the property.
The easement states: "The owner retains the limited right to operate motorized vehicles on the property for agricultural and maintenance purposes and other motorized vehicles for personal use, as long as the use does not adversely affect the conservation values (of the property)."
"Our intent is to operate the same as we did last year," Smith said. "We proved last year that we could hold the event without damaging the agricultural use of the land. We will continue to work with the farmer of the property to coordinate with his harvesting season and make sure he's on board with our plans."
Civil War Days is the historical society's largest annual fundraiser, and raised more than $19,000 during its inaugural event in 2011.