Local business owner sues Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) --It's a lawsuit that could impact dozens of visitors bureaus across the state.

A Leelanau County business owner is suing the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau over a fee they charge lodge owners that are bureau members.

David Gergenson says it's unfair he has to pay, when the restaurant down the street doesn't pay a dime.

Gergenson bought the Sylvan Inn and the Lakeshore Inn about two years ago. He says he didn't know what he was getting himself into.

"Everybody had agreed that I was not part of the bureau, then I got a letter from the president saying that I had to give them some money," Gergenson said.

But the visitors bureau board says that's not the case.

"When he purchased the inn and the bed and breakfast, we had communicated with him that they were existing members of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau," said board secretary Jamie Jewell.

Now Gergenson has representation, who also believes the bureau is wrong.

"The state law authorizing creation of these tourism bureaus and allowing them to tax private entities is unconstitutional," said Michael LaFaive, with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The law allows visitors bureaus across Michigan to collect money from lodging properties to help promote tourism.

Gergenson says it's not right, and not necessary. He plans on fighting until the law is overturned.

"In the modern era you don't need the support of bureaus as much as you used to, because of Facebook and Twitter," LaFaive said.

On the other hand, the visitors bureau board is worried about the impact that losing that money could have on tourism.

"We're very concerned that it would hurt the entire community," Jewell said.

This isn't the first time LaFaive has fought this law. Last year, he fought for a similar case in Cheboygan County, until the owner sold his property.

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