Local communities join in support of Gun Lake Casino in U.S. Supreme Court case

Several local governments, including the City of Wayland and Martin, Leighton and Yankee Springs townships, are joining Wayland Township in filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the Gun Lake Casino, 1123 129th Ave. in Wayland.

Dorr and Hopkins townships also will be considering the matter at upcoming Township Board meetings, according to Roger VanVolkinburg, Wayland Township supervisor.

On the court's docket for the season beginning in October is an appeal filed by David Patchak, of Shelbyville, who argues that a 2014 law, the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act, violates the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers.

The act, signed by President Barack Obama, effectively ended a string of challenges to the federal land trust that allowed the tribe to build the casino near the Bradley exit off U.S. 131.

An amicus brief can be filed in appellate cases by those who are not a party to the case, but have a strong interest in the subject matter. They provide the court with additional information or arguments for consideration.

VanVolkinburg said he is hoping the amicus brief will make a difference with the Supreme Court.

"We hope that it's heard and the Supreme Court rules in favor of the law that was passed ... stopping all those frivolous lawsuits," he said.

The Wayland City Council passed a resolution on Sept. 18 to join Wayland Township's amicus brief.

"I voted 'yes' because the casino has benefited our schools and our communities through revenue-sharing and employment. The casino and the tribe are vital to the success of the surrounding communities," council member Rick Mathis said.

"The Gun Lake Tribe has continued to be a great community partner. They have supported local schools, municipalities as well as other community projects with their profits. I support their rights to build the casino and believe it to be an asset to the Wayland community," Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Antel said.

Local communities benefiting from the state-mandated revenue-sharing are Allegan County, Wayland Union Schools, the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency, the City of Wayland, and Dorr, Hopkins, Leighton, Martin, Wayland and Yankee Springs townships.

Spring revenue-sharing payments from the Gun Lake Tribe exceeded $6.7 million, with $3.7 million of that going to the state of Michigan, $1.8 million to the local revenue-sharing board, and $1.1 million going to GLIMI, an economic development entity that pursues non-gaming economic development and job creation.

"The monies that are generated from that 2 percent revenue to local units of government pays for things like the police department," Van Volkinburg said. "The sheriff's department gets money from them and the schools get a huge amount of money from them. The township gets two deputies and we pave the roads with that money too."

Patchak, a former Wayland Township trustee, first challenged the U.S. Department of Interior's authority to take land into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe in 2008 after previous lawsuits opposing construction of the casino failed. He claimed the casino traffic would lower his property value and bring pollution, crime and divert the rural area's municipal resources.

This is not the first time Patchak's challenge has been heard by the Supreme Court. In 2012, the high court voted 8-1 to allow Patchak's case against the casino to move forward in the lower courts. On May 1, 2017 the court announced it had granted the case "certiorari," meaning it would hear the case during its next term.

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