By Mike Kruzman & Jon King /

The State of Michigan Court of Appeals has sided with Genoa Township against a non-profit sports organization that was trying to get tax exemptions on their building.

The Livingston County Hockey Association was appealing a decision from the Michigan Tax Tribunal that denied their request for property tax exemption on the Grand Oaks Ice Arena in Genoa Township. The arena has been under different ownership since October 2019, and current owner 140 Ice Den President Joe Riccardi says he has nothing to do with this case and that he has made sure that all taxes have been paid.

In the court’s May 6th opinion, it states the crux of LCHA’s claim is that hockey and ice skating are charitable activities because they lessen the burden of the government by improving the health and wellness of their participants. The MTT concluded their overall nature was not charitable, but rather recreational. The Court of Appeals affirmed that.

LCHA originally sent a letter to Genoa Township’s Board of Review in 2017 seeking the exemptions for that year and 2016. They eventually added 2018 and 2019 to their request. Genoa Township argued that LCHA was not a “charitable institution” because it failed 4 out 6 measures identified in a prior case, Wexford Med Group v City of Cadillac, by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The opinion stated that there was no doubt that LCHA was a “nonprofit,” but what was at issue was whether they were a “nonprofit ‘charitable’ institution.”

The Court of Appeals agreed that they failed to meet 3 of the Supreme Court’s standards for being so. They sided with the MTT’s decision that LCHA was not organized chiefly for charity, and that it presented no evidence linking the charity they provide to any burden the government is legally obligated to undertake. The third mark against LCHA was that while they gave discounted and free ice-time to hockey groups, those discounts were found not given to promote public health, but rather hockey and ice-related activities.