Village pleads its case against disincorporation

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:44 AM

Village Manager Chris Burns will be testifying in Lansing today against a bill that would provide a mechanism for disincorporation for Michigan Home Rule villages.

Spring Lake is a Home Rule village, and its current charter contains no provision for dissolving.

A bill that aims to allow residents of Home Rule villages the opportunity to vote on disincorporation (Senate Bill 1167), sponsored by Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, was approved 37-1 by the state Senate in June.

Burns said she learned Monday that the state House is now taking up the proposed legislation. She prepared written testimony this week.

Inspired by the disincorporation confusion that churned in Spring Lake earlier this year, Meekhof said he wants to end what he calls a “quirk” in the law.

Spring Lake resident Joyce Hatton is leading the disincorporation charge. She said by merging the village with Spring Lake Township, village property owners could save “hundreds of dollars” in taxes. Village residents currently pay taxes to both governments.

Hatton collected petition signatures last spring aimed at getting the disincorporation issue on the August primary ballot. The petition was filed and certified in mid-May, but Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon VanAllsburg ruled in June that the village's Home Rule Charter contained no provisions for disincorporation and kept the proposal off the ballot.

General Law villages provide a means of disincorporation, while Home Rule villages do not. Meekhof said he wants village disincorporation rules to be uniform throughout the state so that voters have the opportunity to decide a municipality's structure.

“Sen. Meekhof doesn't have a point of view on whether or not Spring Lake should disincorporate,” explained Bob DeVries, Meekhof's chief of staff. “He just thinks that voters should have options and government should be responsible to the people. He thinks every municipality should have mechanisms for that (disincorporation).”

Hatton said she was “delighted” to learn the legislation is being discussed in Lansing.

“I think it's very important for residents of the village to have an opportunity to vote on whether or not they would like to combine with the township,” she said. “There's no reason to not have more efficient, economical government. This is something the governor has been pushing.”

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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