The decision to terminate the Concession Agreement with Windmill Farm was not a decision taken lightly or quickly.  When the Township was forced to acquire the property in 2013, the horse farm was already operating there.   The Township allowed the farm to continue while it decided what to ultimately do with the property.   Initially, the relationship was productive, but issues arose over time.  The Township began discussing the horse farm, the issues that had arisen, and its possibilities back in 2019.  At that time, the Township looked into several alternatives for the property but decided to give Windmill Farm an opportunity to grow their services for the residents of Commerce Township. In granting that opportunity, it was made clear to Windmill Farm that the priority needed to be increasing and improving programming and that it needed to offer the opportunity to all residents of Commerce Township and not just a subset.

The Township learned most people utilizing Windmill Farm are not Commerce residents.  Windmill Farm is required to turn in waivers for all riders that come into the facility pursuant to the Concession Agreement.  The last batch received at the September 13, 2022 meeting totaled 33 waivers with only 4 of them from Commerce Township residents.   The original batch of waivers received earlier in the year spanned from 2017-2022, in only looking at those from 2021-2022 that was a total of approximately 114 with 20 of those being Commerce Township residents. Even if the concessionaire records were not accurate, if you double these numbers the waivers indicate that only 40 of Commerce Township’s 43,000 residents utilize the horse farm and this includes all the school equestrian programs.  The Township believes that more Township residents should benefit from the horse farm, hence its efforts to have Windmill Farm increase its programing.

There is significant misinformation about the Township’s handling of the horse farm that needs to be addressed.  First, the Township is not, and has not been, in discussions with a developer for the sale or building of homes upon the property.  Second, neither soccer fields nor pickle ball courts are contemplated uses for the property in the Township’s Parks Master Plan, and there are no future plans of building them on the property.

There is also confusion regarding the Notice to Quit.   The following is a timeline of events surrounding the Notice:

  • Windmill Farm received a letter of default on October 30, 2021, that letter included a 30-day, 60-day and 90-day timeline of items that needed to be addressed. Windmill Farm did not timely satisfy the requirements set forth in that letter.
  • Windmill Farm’s failure to address the letter of default was discussed at the February 8, 2022 Township Board Meeting where a decision to issue a Request for Proposals for the continued use of the property as a horse farm was made. This decision was made largely upon the fact that the Township had not received a comprehensive programming plan to include more than just equestrian activities, despite repeated requests from Windmill Farm.  While the Township welcomes the idea of being accessible to residents from surrounding communities, the Township feels it must prioritize the property’s value to Commerce Township residents, particularly the value of the property as a horse farm.
  • Despite the decision to issue a Request for Proposals, Windmill Farm’s Concession Agreement was not terminated at this point and its operator, Carrie Hancock, was further welcomed to submit a response to the Township’s Request for Proposals.
  • The Township Board worked through the Request for Proposals process which included interviews with selected proposals. The Township Board identified a proposal it was willing to move forward with, which involved Windmill Farm. However, at the time of selection, Windmill Farm withdrew its involvement. The Township decided not to act on the other responses at that time.
  • At the May 10, 2022 Township Board Meeting, the Township decided to try to identify new alternatives up to, and including, posting of another Request for Proposals.
  • The Township spent the next few months speaking to parties that were interested in operating the farm, however none of those parties were ready to commit. The Township believes this was in part due to Windmill Farm actively operating on the property.
  • At the September 13, 2022 Township Board Meeting a motion was made to terminate the Concession Agreement with Windmill Farm and continue to explore alternative options to serve the community, especially the residents of Commerce Township.
  • The decision to terminate the Agreement has been long and not one we’ve enjoyed going through. There is never a perfect time, however the Township felt that by notifying the concessionaire in September it allowed her time to move her business and allowed the 2022 School Equestrian Teams to finish their season. This also allowed enough notice to be given for the 2023 Equestrian season. The 90-day period to vacate was agreed to by Windmill Farm in the Concession Agreement.
  • The Township has communicated via email, zoom and an in-person meeting on October 4th with Kallie Myers a director for the Michigan Horse Council. The purpose of these communications and meeting was to discuss developing a new Request for Proposals for the property. Due to scheduling conflicts, she has not been able to meet with the Township since October 4th.  If willing, the Township still plans to continue to work with her and/or the Michigan Horse Council on the next steps.

It is the Township’s intent to keep this property agricultural in nature and find programming that will offer opportunities to the majority of Township residents.

The Township understands that many have concern over the well-being of the horses as does the Township.  The concessionaire was notified on September 19, 2022 that her contract was terminated, since then the Township has sent several messages requesting a reasonable exit strategy to ensure the well-being of the horses, however no reasonable plan nor timeline has been provided.  Rest assured, the health, safety and well-being of the horses are of highest concern to the Township and will be a priority in transitioning the property from Windmill Farm.