After two years, Bay View community reaches resolution over housing discrimination lawsuit
A resolution was announced Tuesday in litigation over the alleged discriminatory housing practices of a Northern Michigan summer community.
Members of the Bay View community sued in 2017 over a religious requirement for anyone hoping to buy a cottage in the area. In short, property could only be owned by practicing Christians who passed a religious test.
In February, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development found that the community was violating the Fair Housing Act.
Sarah Prescott is an attorney representing the Bay View members behind the suit. She said she believes the threat of a Justice Department lawsuit brought Bay View to the table.
“The backbone of the resolution is that Bay View’s bylaws and articles of incorporation will be amended to forever prevent the kind of religious discrimination that has been going on,” she said.
As part of the agreement the Federal Government will monitor Bay View’s housing transactions for the next five years.
“It’s a situation of trust but verify,” said Prescott. “Certainly my clients are interested in reconciliation and a positive chapter going forward, but we’ll be watching.”
Don Duquette is a member of the Bay View community behind the suit. He said he’s happy with the resolution.
“We’re very pleased and I think the people, former opponents, are also very pleased.”
Duquette and other community members behind the suit have not sought damages.
Under the resolution Bay View will still be allowed to maintain its Christian programming and activities, a concern members raised during a community meeting about the suit last year.
In a letter to its members regarding the resolution, the Bay View Board of Trustees wrote “we dedicate this summer to reconciliation in our beloved Bay View.”
In their letter, trustees also wrote that the resolution was not an admission of wrongdoing. “We can argue legalities,” trustees wrote about the Department of Justice’s insistence that Bay View could not require their board to be majority Methodist, “but the reality is that fighting the United States government on this point would have taken far greater resources than we have.”
A federal judge still needs to approve the resolution, but Sarah Prescott said that decision is expected soon.