Grand Traverse Band Has 145 Acres Placed Into Trust

From the Traverse City Record Eagle:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs last week issued a notice of decision that approved the band’s trust application for five parcels totaling just over 145 acres in Acme and Whitewater townships near Turtle Creek Casino on M-72.

 Trust status turns ownership of the property over to the federal government on behalf of the band, and exempts it from local taxes and zoning regulations.

The band plans to use the property for non-gambling commercial development to complement its new Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel that opens to the public on June 17. The casino opening is the tribe’s top priority, officials said, and there’s nothing on the drawing board for the trust property, in part because of the state’s slumping economy.

“It’s going to be a while,” tribal Chairman Robert Kewaygoshkum said. “At this time, the tribe has no plans of any type on the table.”

Kewaygoshkum said the tribe’s preliminary plans submitted as part of the trust application outlined around 250,000 square feet of retail space and a large restaurant developed over the next three years. But those plans will depend on local and state economic conditions.

“That will play a great part in it,” Kewaygoshkum said. “When you look around within 50 to 100 miles of Traverse City, there’s a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs. I think we’re in for tough times.”

The site includes five parcels near M-72 east of Arnold Road. Much of the land is vacant and zoned for industrial and agricultural use.

The BIA’s decision said the band “established need” for additional land for economic development activity beyond its two casinos. The band said its tribal lands in Leelanau County aren’t suitable for retail development because of lower population and traffic counts there, and lack of public infrastructure.

Local units of government have until mid-June to appeal the BIA’s decision. The Whitewater Township Board discussed the land at a special meeting this week and agreed not to contest the approval, Clerk Carol Hockin said. Acme Township and Grand Traverse County officials also are reviewing the issue.

“I think they answered a lot of our concerns,” Hockin said of the band. “They understand that we’re going to have more public safety issues out there.”