Taxpayer concerns for zoning ordinance approval on upcoming ballot

GRAND HAVEN TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A new healthcare facility under construction in Grand Haven Township has been the center of controversy since it was approved in March. Now voters question if Ordinance 541 is adopted after the election will it cost them, and could it stop the facility's construction?

See the proposed Ordinance 541 language here.

The Grand Haven Township Board and Planning Commission approved Health Pointe in March despite opposition and at least 22 residents verbally opposing it at public meetings. Under construction adjacent the Meijer near Robins Road and 172 Avenue, Health Pointe will be a 105,000 square foot medical office building in a joint project between Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital.

Some opposed say Health Pointe will become unnecessary competition with North Ottawa Community Hospital, which has been a community staple for nearly a century. However, Grand Haven Township Manager Bill Cargo told FOX 17 that according to a recent Ottawa County healthcare assessment the county is statistically underserved with 31 percent fewer doctors in the area than the state average.

“How it’s going to impact North Ottawa Community Hospital that’s a good question, we’re not sure," . But the township the board felt that they shouldn’t be using zoning to pick winners and losers in the healthcare market.”

Still, possible tax hikes are the larger problem for many in the opposition like Bob Brown, Grand Haven Township resident, who helped spearhead Grand Haven Township Citizens Voice and get proposed Ordinance 541 on the ballot to try and stop it.

"All our taxes are going up and continue to go up and we’re using our prime commercial property that should be supporting this tax base," said Brown.

According to Michigan law, if Health Pointe provides charity care, it can eventually apply to be exempt from property taxes. Residents like Brown say they are worried the burden will then fall on them. Cargo says if Health Pointe applies to be exempt the Township will oppose it; however, if they cannot stop it, Health Pointe has agreed to pay $43,000 annually in a payment in lieu of taxes.

Cargo says Health Pointe won't cost taxpayers additional money.

“It’s not going to cost the average resident anything," said Cargo. "We’re going to have a different service there, just like if Meijer comes in or another business comes in that doesn’t cost the residents anything.  We do want them [Health Pointe] to pay their fair share and they would be paying 100 percent of their municipal taxes if they were exempted.”

Nov. 8 voters will determine whether the township adopts Ordinance 541. Cargo says it would clear up ambiguities and give flexibility for future planned unit developments. However, Brown says this does not add up.

“Why in the middle of the zoning did they come up and pass this?" asked Brown. "Specifically in the area that Health Pointe is being built, if it’s not affecting Health Pointe, why do they need it?”

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