|The land that might be put into trust
The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is looking to put 170 acres along M-72 into federal trust.
The plan for the land? According to papers filed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Grand Traverse Band is considering developing housing, energy-producing windmills and a winery there.
Putting the land into trust would remove the parcel from local tax rolls, so Grand Traverse County and Acme Township officials are trying to work out a deal to replace some of the lost revenue. They’re concerned because the land is in an area they believe is ripe for commercial development.
“We’re working towards having an agreement with the Band before they do any development there, to provide some revenue in lieu of tax revenue being lost,” says John Sych, Grand Traverse County planning director. The larger of the parcels generates about $20,000 in local taxes currently.
Sych says he’s not so much concerned about what the land pays now, but what it would likely generate once it’s developed.
“That corridor has kind of been a focus of development and, with a new Meijer coming in, we know there will be some future development in that area,” he says.
The county hopes to come to an agreement with the Band before the property is developed. They’d like to continue discussions that started in 2008 on other tax questions. Those talks were spurred by previous lands being put into trust.
Currently, county officials say they’re waiting to hear whether the tribe will re-open those talks.
Concerns from local governments in cases like these are not rare.
“The tribes usually do come up with an agreement with the local governments,“ says Gerald Parish, superintendent of the BIA for Michigan.
Acme Township Manager Sharon Vreeland says that the potential loss of tax revenue is a concern to the township, but notes that the Grand Traverse Band does help compensate local governments what it is spared in taxes, such as its bi-annual 2-percent contribution of electronic gaming revenues.
Last June, the Grand Traverse Band gave more than $260,000 to local units of government, money ultimately awarded to organizations like the Grand Traverse Conservation District, the Grand Traverse Commission on Aging, Traverse Health Clinic and more. She notes that the Band also sought and won a federal grant on behalf of the township to fund improvements on Holiday Road.
Before deciding whether or not to grant a parcel of land trust status, Parish says the bureau will take into consideration the potential impact on the environment, as well as on local taxes and services.
In this case, there are actually three parcels of land being posed for trust, and all are near Turtle Creek Casino.
The larger one consists of two parcels totaling 159 acres, which has frontage on M-72, west of Bates Road and east of Traverse Bay RV Park. That land does not border any other land the Band has placed in trust, so the final decision will be made by officials at the BIA’s Midwest regional office in Minnesota.
The other parcel is just 12 acres that borders Arnold Road and a railroad grade, and is northwest of the tribe-owned Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel. That land is adjacent to other land the tribe has already successfully put into trust.
County officials are also concerned that the tribe could put whatever it wants on the land, because once it’s put into trust there is no local control.
Efforts to reach Tribal Chairman Al Pedwaydon for comment were unsuccessful.