NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING, ELECTRONIC MEETING, AND FILING OF SPECIAL ASSESSMENT ROLL
Written appeals of the special assessment may be filed with the Mighican Tax Tribunal within thirty (30) days after the date of confirmation of the special assessment roll, but only if the owner or party-in-interest appears and protests the special assessment at this hearing. An appearance or protest can be filed with the township by letter prior to the hearing, in which case a personal appearance at the hearing is not required. Homeowners are encouraged to deliver letters personally due to the short timeframe.
Below you will find a communication that was received by the Michiana Village Council from our legal counsel. We would like all residents to review the correspondence below so that you know your individual rights and timelines.
While this is advice from our legal counsel, you may want to contact your own attorney for additional questions.
Residents need to send an appeal to New Buffalo Township to protect their rights to an appeal to the Tax Tribunal.
Each of us needs to take action and help get this message out to taxpaying neighbors, friends, the elderly who might need assistance and those that winter elsewhere.
Please direct your correspondence to the following email addresses:
If you have already sent an email to Supervisor Michelle Heit regarding the Special Assessment, please resend your email to the other two addresses above.
You should include in your letter:
Your opposition to a Special Assessment District by the township.
2. The question of where the township finds the legal authority to assess a sovereign home rule village.
3. Any other questions, or points from our legal counsel.
Dear Council Members:
As requested by the Council, this email contains a basic overview of the Village's objections to the special assessment proposed by New Buffalo Township, in addition to discussing what taxpayers should consider in objecting and preserving their individual rights to appeal the special assessment roll, if approved on February 16.
The Village Council is probably aware that there are three separate legal authorities that allow the Village to specially assess properties within its borders: the Michigan Home Rule Village Act, the Village Charter, Section 43, and Public Act 33 of 1951 (attached) give the Village the right to specially assess real property in the Village. These statutes and the Charter also give the Village express authority to establish and fund emergency services--either by establishing those services "in house", as we have done with the police department, or contracting for the services. The Township has these same rights. I strongly believe that the Village Council has an interest in preserving its sovereign powers, meaning that the Village cannot allow other local units of government to infringe on statutory rights that are afforded to the Village in the Michigan HRV Act or in special assessment statutes such as Act 33 of 1951 (attached). The statute clearly did not intend to give both the Township and the Village the right to establish a Village police department, for example. Using the same logic, the statute does not give the Township the right to assess properties within the Village for emergency services utilized outside the Village.
The ultimate question is one of statutory interpretation. Act 33 clearly did not give concurrent powers, meaning that it was not the legislature's intent to give the Township the authority to create Village police or fire departments. The Village's right to assess for its own emergency services ends at its jurisdictional boundaries, and I believe the same argument holds true for the Township. [Note: the exception to this rule is voter-approved millages that appear on the ballot. Voter-approved millages can be levied Township-wide, including in the Village.] While the Village may technically be within the Township boundaries, the Village is incorporated and established as a separate legal entity with its own specific statutory rights and authority to create and fund its own emergency services. There is no joint statutory authority for the Township to do the same within the Village. Thus, it is unclear what precise legal authority the Township is relying on in its attempt to force a special assessment on Village residents. It is my opinion that unless the Township can produce direct legal authority to specially assess real property in an incorporated Home Rule Village under Act 33, and show that there is some actual benefit to the Village residents, then the Township is acting outside its legal authority.
As I just mentioned, further complicating the matter is that the Village and its residents are not benefited in any way by the services that are being paid by the assessment. The Village has its own public safety building and offices, which residents pay for through their Village taxes. The Village is able to contract for any services it needs on its own per PA 33 of 1951, the HRV Act, and the Village Charter. This argument is why individual Village property owners may have their own unique objections to the assessment--they are being threatened with an assessment for emergency services for which they do not receive any benefit. One fundamental legal requirement of special assessments is that there must be a benefit to the property being assessed. No benefits are being received by the Village property owners from the assessment since the Village residents receive emergency services from the Village.
While I cannot advise individual property owners due to my obligation to represent the Village's interests on the issues of statutory sovereignty and the Village's corporate rights, I have attached the meeting notice for February 16 at the Township Hall for any taxpayer who is interested. I want to point out that the Notice requires individual property owners, parties in interest, or their agents to do the following: appear/protest on the record at the public Zoom hearing, or send a letter of objection in advance of the meeting. See the attached meeting notice for the precise instructions. Just note that letters from taxpayers must be received in advance of the meeting. Citizens wishing to submit a written appearance/protest without making an appearance at the Zoom meeting should take every precaution to ensure that their letter is received at the Township Hall in advance of the meeting--I would not take chances with regular mail given the short time frame. If a taxpayer does not timely submit a letter and/or appear and object on the record at the Zoom hearing, their right to object or appeal to a higher court is forever lost.
If individual owners would like to contact their own legal counsel about this issue, I would encourage them to do so. I am also happy to provide names of local attorneys who could assist with this type of matter in short order.
Please note that this email provides a very high-level summary of the issues. The nuances surrounding special assessments are complex and multi-faceted.