Commercial Abatements

Most resolutions that come before the County Commissioners are passed with an overwhelming majority. This week, the requested commercial abatement by Hartland township for an Emagine theater was being considered and was rejected by a 5-4 vote. Several months ago the commissioners had approved a similar request for a rehabilitation district with a unanimous vote. What was the difference? Howell’s request was for a larger area with no specific projects in mind. This one was a request for only one parcel in a larger district and the use, a theater, was already known.

Abatements have always generated a philosophical debate about their fairness to existing businesses who are paying full taxes. My feeling about abatements is that it highlights the fact that taxes are often too high to attract new business. I have voted for abatements when I was on the Village council and support the use of abatements for industrial uses. At the same time, I would advocate for a system that would lower taxes, making our state more attractive to industries that in turn bring good-paying jobs. Historically the Livingston county commissioners have worked to keep our tax level as low as possible for that very reason.   

With the Hartland request for a commercial abatement for a theater in the property adjacent to the M-59—US 23 interchange, questions that were not obvious in Howell’s general request started to surface. Would this add too much traffic to the already heavy traffic patterns? What additional pressures would it put on police and ambulance services because the theater would have a liquor license? How could we give one theater an abatement without also offering it to the theater in Brighton? Is it right to take away taxes that would benefit the whole county for the benefit of just one area? Should it be allowed because Hartland should have its own local control? Should this advantage be given to a business that offers mostly part-time jobs whose wages are close to the minimum?

When the general philosophy was viewed in this specific application, the advantages of commercial abatements were seen in a different light by five of us commissioners. The abatement request was denied. Had the Hartland request been considered before Howell’s resolution, Howell’s would also have been a close vote and likely also turned down.

On a related note, I would like to thank Fred Dillingham for his long career of public service to our county, our state, and especially the Fowlerville area. At the end of this month Fred is resigning from his “second” career of economic development. His devotion has brought many businesses and jobs to our area. Fred’s leadership in Fowlerville, Handy Township, and the surrounding area rightfully used industrial abatements across the board along with detailed planning and coordination to bring advantages to many of us.

I appreciated the input I received on both sides of the question from my constituents and others from the county. Answering the emails helped me to clarify the reasons for my vote.

Please contact me with any communication or concern that you may have. 517 540-8717 or dhelzerman@livgov.com