Dan Engler, President and CEO of Graceland Fruit, described Graceland's joint effort with Benzie Habitat for Humanity to create affordable housing in Benzie County's Gilmore Township.
Graceland Fruit is donating approximately 40 acres of land on Forrester Road to be used by Benzie Habitat for the construction of affordable homes.  The plan for phase one is to install infrastructure for 23 homesites that will be built as demand warrants.  The homes will be around 1,100 square feet and will be modeled after other homes built by Benzie Habitat in the county.
The property in question is currently zoned "rural preservation."  This would not permit the new housing, and Graceland and Benzie Habitat are working to secure the needed change in the zoning classification.  In that regard there is a meeting on Wednesday, January 25 at the Gilmore Township Hall to discuss the zoning issues associated with the project.
This is not a profit endeavor for Graceland Fruit.  In addition to donating 40 acres of land, Graceland is supporting the project with capital and other resources to ensure that the project is built responsibly--all to address what it says is the number one issue for employers in Benzie County.
Nor is this a profit venture for Benzie Habitat, represented at our meeting by Glen Tracy.  Benzie Habitat will be responsible for family selection, mortgage arrangements and home construction--activities normally involved with a Habitat for Humanity home.
The goal of Graceland Fruit and Benzie Habitat is to create a neighborhood to be proud of.  Nevertheless, some neighbors have been less than supportive of the zoning changes necessary for this project to move forward.