Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 1, 2014

Newsmakers: County continues to appeal Band land trust

EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.

TRAVERSE CITY -- Grand Traverse County officials continue to dispute a decision by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to place two parcels totaling 170 acres in Acme Township into trust.

Land put into trust is exempt from local taxes and owned by the federal government on behalf of a Native American tribe. The Acme Township land in question is owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and for now has not been developed, but county officials worry it could be more valuable in the future.

“The more land that goes into trust and then is developed, they could put things that are worth millions of dollars on that land and would never be taxed,” David Benda, the Grand Traverse County administrator, said. “All we’re doing is trying to protect taxpayers’ interest.”

The parcels are north of M-72 and between the Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel and the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.

Regional BIA officials in July rejected the county’s first appeal of the land trust arrangement, but county leaders plan to appeal the decision to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, the final authority on the issue. Officials hope to send the appeal in January.

The county’s appeal focuses on a 2008 case that says only tribes under federal jurisdiction in 1934 are eligible to put land into trust.

The county argues that the Band was not under federal jurisdiction at that time, although the Michigan Agency of the BIA asserts otherwise in a February letter.

Regional BIA officials agreed with the Michigan Agency and upheld the initial decision to put the land into trust, Benda said.

“I don’t know that we will get a different result,” Benda said. “We’re exhausting the administrative process.”

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