Board allows family to continue work on township-owned land
Published February 27, 2013
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Board of Trustees decided to sign a hold harmless agreement with a township farmer, who unofficially has been working 35 acres of township-owned land for more than four years.
While the township would not charge Schramm Farms rent, part of the agreement is that the farmer pays the property taxes that the county will now assess on the lot, Township Supervisor Janet Dunn said recently.
As of print time, the Schramms had not signed the agreement.
The board voted at its Feb. 13 meeting to allow the Schramm family, who has been using the land near 24 Mile and Card roads to grow crops without paying rent, to continue farming the land.
Days after the vote, Township Clerk Michael Koehs said legal counsel brought up the prospect that, because of the change, the township may have to pay Macomb County property taxes on the land.
Normally, township-owned land being used for a public purpose — like a park or town hall — is tax exempt. But because the 35 acres would be used for private use, the township would lose the tax exemption.
“It has to be put back on the (tax) rolls,” Koehs said, which means someone must pay.
Dunn said the taxes would come from the Schramm family.
“We have to be sure that we get the taxes at least from the deal,” she said.
Last year, former Township Supervisor Mark Grabow discovered that the Schramm family was farming the land without a lease agreement with the township. Tom Schramm said that the family took over the farm after a verbal agreement with a former township supervisor. After the discovery, the board decided that the township needed to place the land up for a leasing bid. Only two farmers responded to the bid, according to township records.
The Schramm family, one of the two bidders, offered to pay the township $3,000 annually for the land while Olejnik Farms, also in Macomb, offered $5,400.
After tabling the decision for two meetings, the board rejected both bids Feb. 13 and approved that the township sign a lease holding harmless the Schramm family.
“We didn’t think that either one of them was what we were looking for,” Koehs said of both bids immediately following the meeting. “The board just decided that that’s not the way they wanted to go because it causes complications of some sorts.”
Tom Schramm, who, along with his father Kenneth Schramm, runs the family farm, said he was surprised at the decision to not charge them rent but added that his family already had put a lot of work into the land, which was originally filled with construction debris from a neighboring development.
“We picked up a lot of junk,” Schramm said. “It’s been a work in progress.”