Amber board continues to discuss health plaza property transfer.

May 23, 2016

AMBER TOWNSHIP — The Amber Township board of trustees continued its discussion on whether or not it should enter into a 425 agreement with the City of Scottville to transfer properties owned by two health care providers into the city’s governance. Dr. Lewis Squires, owner of Squires Family Chiropractic, 414 W. US 10, and Dr. Nick Simone of Simone Family Dentistry, 440 W. US 10, made the request during the April meeting of the township. The duo had already received approval from the Scottville City Commission in April.

Through the 425 agreement, the properties would fall under the city’s jurisdiction and would have access to municipal services such as police coverage, refuse pick-up and public transportation. The businesses sit just west of the city limits.

Squires and Simone have told both the Scottville commission and Amber trustees that the primary reason for the request is to allow their patients to utilize public transportation from Ludington Mass Transit Authority. Currently, Amber Township is not served by LMTA because it does not levy a millage for the service. However, Scottville does levy 1 mill for the service. The health care practices are located just west of the city limits.

Trustee Tom Alway said he contacted LMTA and retained records of service when the bus service was allowing passengers to utilize it along the US 10 corridor. From October 2013 to October 2014, Alway said no passengers stopped at Squires’ health care facility. At that time, Simone’s practice was still located in Scottville.

Alway said he questioned if Squires would be able to just contract services with LMTA. He also said that he believed the issue was more about zoning rather than transportation. Amber Township does not have its own zoning ordinance and utilizes the county’s zoning. The City of Scottville has its own zoning ordinance. Squires, a former county commissioner, has said that he has had difficulties with the county’s zoning and has found it prohibitive. He did explain, during the meeting Monday, that the violations on his property would not require a lot of money in order to be in compliance.

Squires said he would like to develop the property to add another health care practice and the accessibility of public transportation would encourage more patients to use the facility. He added that the new facility may have some parking problems.

“I don’t like the way you are going about this because you are using zoning as a scapegoat,” Trustee Richard Alway said.

“It’s good to discuss this and listen to everyone’s point of view,” said Supervisor Jim Gallie. Gallie noted that he has spoken with Scottville City Manager Amy Williams and also the township and city’s mutual attorney Tracy Thompson. Making the switch would not mean a loss in tax revenue for the township. Currently, Amber Township property owners pay a township operating millage of .9098 while Scottville residents pay an operating millage of 16.7, plus 2.6 mills for refuse and 1 mill for LMTA, a total of 20.3 mills. The city would still be responsible for paying Amber Township at least its current tax operating rate. The township also has the right to negotiate a higher tax rate with the city, Gallie said, if it so choses.

Amber Township has already entered into 425 agreements with Scottville on properties located on North Main Street south of the US 31 bypass. Scottville also has a 425 agreement with Custer Township in that area as well, including the property that will house the Gateway to Success Academy charter school, scheduled to open in September.

Township Clerk Brenda Knizacky said she was not opposed to the agreement since it did not mean a financial burden on the township.

Supervisor Gallie agreed. “There is no financial burden on the township, that’s a plus,” he said. “If we can improve financially by making it happen and making the (health care) plaza successful, and providing ridership (from LMTA) to the plaza, I can’t see the negative, other than setting a precedent, which we have already set.”

The trustees are expected to discuss the topic again during the board’s June 27 meeting at 7 p.m. If the board agrees to move forward, it will need to hold a public hearing and request for public input on whether or not there should be a referendum or whether or not the board can pass a resolution.

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