Following a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Michigan’s suit suit against Bay Mills was barred by tribal sovereign immunity. Flint Township officials are uncertain what the future holds for 28 acres of land Bay Mills owns, where a casino was slated before the lawsuit.MLive.com File Photo
FLINT TWP, MI – There is no indication about how a U.S. Supreme Court decision to dismiss the state’s lawsuit against Bay Mills Indian Community over an off-reservation tribal casino will affect the Flint Township property the tribe owns.
In a 5 to 4 decision, the high court cited the tribe’s sovereign immunity as a reason for barring the state’s suit on Tuesday.
Since 2010, the state had said Bay Mills Indian Community violated state law after it opened a casino in Vanderbilt, about 10 miles north of Gaylord. The now-closed casino is about a 110-mile-drive south of the Bay Mills reservation in the Upper Peninsula.
In December 2010, Bay Mills purchased 28 acres at the Northeast corner of Lennon and Dutcher roads in Flint Township, and announced plans to build a casino there.
In an official response, the Bay Mills Indian Community did not give any timeline for use of the Flint Township land.
“Congress and the Supreme Court have long recognized that a state cannot interfere with an Indian tribe’s sovereignty. We are gratified that the Court reaffirmed that longstanding principle today,” the statement read. “Bay Mills, a federally recognized tribe, depends for its livelihood on revenues from gaming activities conducted in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Court’s decision affords proper deference to Congress’s judgment, and it will ensure that tribes like Bay Mills can continue to fund tribal education and perform other sovereign functions.”
Shannon Jones, spokeswoman for Bay Mills, could not be reached for further comment.
During a meeting in October 2011, Jeff Parker, then-chairman of the executive committee for Bay Mills, told the West Flint Business Association that the building was expected to bring about 700 jobs to the area and would be roughly 200,000 square feet.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said initial plans called for the casino and, potentially, an entertainment center or hotel.
“It has the potential to bring a lot of jobs,” she said.
During his 2011 meeting, Parker discussed contracting services such as police and fire protection through the township. As a payment in lieu of taxes, plans called for Bay Mills to provide 2 percent of the gross profit from the Flint Township facility to the township, which was estimated to be between $2 million to $4 million at the time.
Miller said the township is going to wait and see what happens as the ramifications of the decision are shown.
“I know our attorney is contacting them,” she said.
Tracy Tucker, economic development director for the township, said although Bay Mills does have sovereign immunity on the site, based on the ruling, the township had a good working relationship as plans began and she hopes to continue that.
“They wanted to work with the township and that’s a good thing,” she said.