UPDATE: The resolution of support will not appear on the agenda for the county’s Finance Committee meeting Wednesday morning because the tie vote does not allow the resolution to pass. The county now has 28 days to pass a resolution if they wish to deny Hartland Township’s resolution establishing the district. If they do not take action, the district will remain and the next step would be for the applicant, Emagine Entertainment, to apply for the tax exemption through the state’s Tax Commission. If the issue proceeds to that level, the Tax Commission would have the final say.

There are murky waters surrounding whether a resolution from Hartland Township regarding the establishment of a district will move forward at the county level or not.

The county’s General Government & Health and Human Services Committee heard a resolution from Hartland Township seeking their support to establish a Commercial Rehabilitation District on seven acres of property located near M-59 and US-23. The municipality approved a resolution establishing the district recently so that a proposed Emagine movie theater would be eligible for a tax abatement.

Monday's meeting included a fairly lengthy call to the public. One Hartland Township resident voiced his opposition to the project saying, “If it’s not feasible without an abatement, it should not be built.” Another resident shared concerns about safety and traffic, especially as the theater would have a liquor license.

Members from Hartland’s Board of Trustees spoke at the meeting to explain their reason for supporting the district and ultimately, the abatement. Trustee Joe Petrucci, who says “competition is good”, believes the theater will spark business. Hartland Township Trustee Joe Colaianne took a more direct approach. Based on thoughts shared during public comment, he says it seems the actual issue is whether local units of government should be allowed to establish a district and if that’s the case, it’s a policy matter that should be taken up with the legislature. Colaianne, who promised the room that Hartland Township doesn’t give out tax abatements “willy nilly”, says if citizens don’t want their officials to give out abatements, they can also remove them from office.

The resolution to support establishment of the district was then put to a vote. Commissioners Bob Bezotte and William Green voted against the resolution. Bezotte says he hasn’t heard much support to establish the district because of the abatement the theater could receive, and that he didn’t believe in subsidizing a competitor of the MJR Brighton Towne Square Digital Cinema. Commissioner Green says for him, “…it comes down to fairness.” Their vote split the board in half, as Commissioners Gary Childs and Dennis Dolan both wanted the resolution to move forward to the county’s Finance Committee so the entire Board of Commissioners could review it Wednesday morning.

Commissioner Dolan says it is his understanding that because the vote was a tie, the resolution died at the committee level and will not move forward. But other officials say the tie vote was neutral and that because no action was taken, it could move forward to Finance. The question of what happens now was posed to several officials, but all had contradicting answers. Hartland Township Supervisor Bill Fountain says county officials are expected to get back in touch with him quickly to provide a definitive answer. (DK)