It’s a roll of the dice whether or not the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs will approve the removal of 170 acres of local tribal land from the tax rolls. But if the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians’ proposal does go through, Grand Traverse County officials want to salvage something out of the deal.
The band applied last summer to have the acreage west of Turtle Creek Casino in Acme put into trust status, which would remove it from property tax rolls and local zoning and building regulations.
County officials have proposed to trade police, fire and road services in lieu of tax payments. The band, in turn, is now proposing a committee of liaisons from the tribe, the county and Acme Township to meet and report to their respective governing bodies on jurisdiction matters.
Larry Inman, county commissioner from Williamsburg, says he is puzzled because the response didn’t address the county’s specific requests, made in 2008 and reiterated in 2012.
“I think it’s a nice gesture on their part,” he said of the concept of liaison groups. “But it’s not actually the response we wanted.”
Inman doesn’t blame tribal leaders though, noting that the Band’s pact with the State of Michigan is up for renewal this year, and any local changes could affect the tribe’s overall tax picture.
“My best guess is they don’t want to enter into discussions without knowing what arrangement they’ll have with the state,” says Inman.
Though various tribal leaders in recent years have floated ideas ranging from a winery to a wind farm, no specific plan for the property has been announced.
John Petoskey, attorney for the Grand Traverse Band, says the tribe’s proposal was a part of an overall initiative to address existing and future tribal trust lands. He declined to say why there has not been a direct response to the county’s proposal.
He added that the tribe has paid millions to local governments, police, fire and schools over the years as part of the two percent of profits on slots and other games per the current state compact.
The county's most recent two percent allocation requests total $2.9 million, including $1.1 million for 911 central dispatch and $250,000 for the county planning department’s local site remediation fund.
Petoskey said negotiations with the state have yet to begin; the current compact expires in November.