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Hartland Township Board OKs Reassessment, Cemetery Ordinance, Marijuana Moratorium Extension

Tax change opponent says a lawsuit is likely.

A local businessman said Hartland Township will face a legal fight over Tuesday's board vote to reassess more than $700,000 in delinquent sewer taxes on property his company originally decided not to pay.

Basil Nona, an area developer and the managing partner for , said his company couldn't afford to continue to pay the assessment on that land and this new move endangers his other businesses and other property owners and force additional foreclosures. There are about 30 parcels within the taxing district affected and Nona said it's illegal to hold other owners responsible for the debt.

"It could threaten all the properties that are being reassessed," he said in an interview after objecting to the plan during public comment. "They are hurting our business. They overstepping their authority and they're violating the original contract that they signed."

But township officials say state law requires the reassessment, which occurred after taxes unpaid on three parcels and the land was sold at auction for about $13,000. They said they plan to send each property owner a letter that further explains the reassessment and new amounts owed – which is about a 6 percent increase.

"(Board members) had their hands tied," Township Manager James Wickman said. "Our attorneys clearly have advised that we are required by statue to spread that."

The district — SAD 4 — was set up in 2005 to pay for $12 million in new sewer infrastructure to expand at three ends of the current system, according to township officials. The land includes mostly undeveloped parcels zoned for commercial or mixed-use development at M-59 and Pleasant Valley Road, U.S. 23 and Clyde Road and M-59 near the township's western border. It's a 20-year assessment.

Nona said it's important to note the township was being forced to fix its existing system at the time by the state and property owners signed up to help by buying the new capacity. He also questioned many township actions, including wondering why the township wasn't using money paid for additional sewer capacity by new developers toward the delinquent debt.

But Wickman said while those monies help pay off the sewer bonds, they are not intended to replace money owed by the special assessments.

Cemetery ordinance, rules update management practices

The township approved its first-ever ordinance that governs the management of its cemeteries. In addition, trustees approved an update to existing rules. (See PDFs below the picture for the changes).

The reform follows a controversy in early 2010 in which former Clerk Ann Ulrich faced a recall and later resigned after plots had been resold, including one to her late mother.

Even before the controversy, the township already had a moratorium since 2009 on selling plots in three of the older cemeteries — Hartland, Parshallville and Smith — to update records.

Wickman said once the update is complete, it's possible plots at those locations might be available.

Marijuana moratorium extended

The trustees unanimously approved extending a moratorium for a year on the licensing or zoning for dispensing marijuana in the township under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

Officials said the Planning Commission needs more time to study the issue that's raised concerns among communities statewide since voters approved the law in 2008.

In Livingston County, several communities have taken action on the issue. Brighton Township extended its moratorium December while Brighton approved an ordinance in July that permits primary caregivers to grow marijuana in residential areas but bans dispensaries and collectives.

Dispensary operators say there's nothing in the current law to ban them, but some communities, such as Hartland, have enacted the moratoriums as court cases play out and officials wait for possible changes to the law, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune. There currently is push in Lansing to change the law that would include clarifying zoning issues, the story said.

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