Indian River resort owner files lawsuit

Resort owner George Galbraith says the law violates his 1st Amendment rights.

CHEBOYGAN COUNTY, Mi. (WPBN/WGTU) -- A legal battle has begun in Indian River over a lodging tax on the rental of resort cottages and hotel rooms.

The tax, which recently grew from 2 percent to 5 percent, is part of the Community Convention Or Tourism Marketing Act, which uses the collected money for the promotion of local tourism.

However the law and its lodging tax isn't sitting well with several local business owners, especially George Galbraith.

The 20 year owner of The Landings On Indian River Resort says the legislation violates his 1st Amendment rights and that he intends to fight it.

This week, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of Galbraith and against the Indian River Area Tourism Bureau which enforces the lodging tax in that area.

"They don't have meetings," said Galbraith. "They're just not accountable. I call them the tourist mafia because you have to join. They take your money and you don't get anything for it."

The bureau is registered with the state and is in good standing as a domestic non-profit.

However, bureau manager Al Thompson has been difficult to find.

The River Area Tourism Bureau website has no contact information and no reliable way to contact Thompson was found.

"It becomes a huge problem when one person is in charge of this and no information at all is being given back to these business owners," said Anne Schieber of the Mackinac Center For Public Policy. "We're prepared for a very big fight because there are a lot of special interests involved."

A total of seven businesses in Indian River are currently subject to the lodging tax, resulting in $35,000 going to the tourism bureau each year.

The case will be tried in Cheboygan County's 53rd Circuit Court.

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