Landowner proposes small yurt resort in South Haven

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SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A South Haven property owner is proposing a small yurt resort be built on nearly 11 acres south of Baseline Road.

Joe Ashen grew up a block away from the land and knew the family that owned the property for decades.

“The kids decided after the parents passed away that they didn’t want the property, so I bought it,” Ashen said. “It’s a special place to me. That’s why I want to save it.”

He has been approached by several developers eager to purchase the unique piece of land, which is close to the beach and just a short distance from downtown.

“They want to give me a lot of money for it, but they’re going to chop all the trees down,” Ashen said.

Ashen says there are trees on the property more than 200 years old. His proposal would protect these trees and clear the smallest amount of land as possible.

“I’d rather save a tree than build an extra yurt,” Ashen said.

The initial plans call for between 15 to 20 yurts. Ashen says he wants to keep the number small to protect more of the forest and have the structures secluded from surrounding development.

A property owner in South Haven proposes building a small yurt resort on nearly 11 acres. (Courtesy)

He came up with the idea on a business trip to Colorado where he visited a yurt resort and asked two friends renting a yurt why they wanted to stay there. The women said they were there for the outdoors and all they wanted was a nice place to sleep, a hot shower and a kitchen.

“I thought, wow this is what I could do here in South Haven,” Ashen said.

Ashen says his yurt would have great amenities like running water, a front deck and a screened-in back porch. It will also have permaculture farming gardens.

“My idea is to have a quiet retreat kind of place. The yurts will not have television sets,” Ashen said.

The South Haven Planning Commission is currently reviewing the proposal. Ashen already has initial designs for engineering work and arrangements with a yurt manufacturer.

“They’re shipped pre-fab from Oregon. A crew that knows what they’re doing can erect the yurt in about three days, the additions will take a little longer,” Ashen said.

He says after receiving approval, he could likely build the resort in about a year.

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