Dexter discusses next steps in cityhood quest after state Boundary Commission turns down petition for 2nd time
Dexter Village Council President Shawn Keough is calling the recent state Boundary Commission ruling “an unfair result,” after the village's proposed city boundaries were found ‘legally insufficient’ for the second time.
He also took the Dexter Area Historical Society to task on Monday night for objecting to the proposed boundaries. “We need to talk to our friends at the historical society and remind them of the $200,000 the village committed to help them purchase Gordon Hall,'' Keough said. "If I’m not mistaken, the village gave the most money.”
The village, Scio and Webster townships were among the contributors to the historical society's purchase of the historic home when the University of Michigan decided to sell the property.
This is the second time that the Boundary Commission has ruled against the village’s proposed boundaries. At issue this time is whether land in the village's agreement to share tax revenues with Webster Township, including Gordon Hall, can be included in the proposed city boundary.
“It irritates me,” Keough said, of the historical society’s objections, before listing his involvement with Gordon Hall.
Keough said he rewrote the resolution that led to the village’s funding pledge, and that he agreed to serve as master of ceremonies for Civil War Days, a recent fundraising activity for Gordon Hall that raised $20,000. He said he assisted The Cedars of Dexter, a housing development on the Gordon Hall property, with its septic field as well as holding discussions with Dexter Township neighbors who were angry when a number of trees were removed to make room for the development.
“I feel a little betrayed,” he said.
Two months ago, a decision on the petition was delayed for an opinion from the state Attorney General on the proposed boundaries.
Though both the Attorney General and boundary commission staff agreed that the village’s petition was legally sufficient, “What amazes me is that not one of the members of the commission voted in favor of it,” he said, calling out Washtenaw County Commissioner Wes Prater for seconding the motion to vote down the cityhood boundary petition.
Keough reiterated his opinion that the boundary commission “seemed to be afraid of a legal challenge (from Webster Township).”
However, that might come from the village, instead.
Councilman Paul Cousins said he was frustrated with the process. “I don’t know what we can do to satisfy these groups. I’m ready to take this to court.”
Village officials are not clear about why the four commissioners voted no, and Keough said, “The whole process is not interactive. You can’t say what’s acceptable, you have to guess.”
At last week’s hearing, the Attorney General read a written opinion that supported the new boundaries, Keough said, but would not “share that letter” with village officials.
Monday night, the Village Council authorized its attorney, Tom Ryan, to request a copy of the state’s file on the village’s cityhood petition to help officials determine what Dexter’s next step should be.
Councilman Jim Smith, who has not been in favor of cityhood since the start, voted against the motion.
In addition, Keough requested Ryan appear at a work session of the Village Council next month to discuss options for the village’s next move.
Originally, the village petitioned to keep its boundaries the same as they are now, but Nicholls said the first petition was turned down on technical issues having to do with the description of the boundaries.
On April 12, 2010, the council voted to resubmit the petition and changed the boundaries to include Gordon Hall and the back half of the Mill Creek Sporting Goods store property so all the new city corners meet. The new boundaries square off the corners and make them contiguous.
The council adopted a resolution declaring its intent to pursue city status and incorporate as the City of Dexter in May, 2007.
Dexter’s website has extensive information about all the steps involved as well as the history of the process to date.
Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter with AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Dexter stories, visit our Dexter page.