Edi­tor’s note: The title of this article has been changed from, “Zoning issue causes higher tax for business owners,” to “Zoning issue causes higher tax for property owners” to cor­rectly match the content of the story. 

The Hillsdale City Council’s decision to vacate a series of unde­veloped alleys in the Clover Hill block has caused con­fusion and anger among property owners at a Sept. 6 meeting.

City Zoning Admin­is­trator Alan Beeker explained how the old alleys will be zoned into the adjacent prop­erties, and what this means for property owners in the block.

“The alleys will be broken up equally amongst all of the property owners. This means that each property owner will get any extra eight feet in length based on the width of the property,” Beeker said. “The city has never made any move toward main­taining those alleyways and many of those property owners were already main­taining them. This decision ensures property owners that the city can’t do things like put tele­phone poles in their backyards.” 

By vacating these alleys, however, the city causes a rise in property taxes for anyone who receives a piece of old alleyway. Coun­cilman Bruce Sharp said that, despite the incon­ve­nience, this decision will ulti­mately benefit property owners. 

“We’re not trying to stir any­thing up, we’re just trying to correct some­thing. I think it’s a win for you guys in the long run. Your taxes just go up a little bit,” he said.

Sharp also said property owners who receive land from the alleys should hire sur­veyors to allay any con­fusion among neighbors over who owns which piece of land. 

“You don’t want to build some­thing and then find out that you’ve built on someone else’s property,” he said. “I would def­i­nitely rec­ommend all property owners to get their land surveyed.”

Coun­cilman Brian Watkins, however, was not sat­isfied with the agreement. Watkins, who owns a piece of land adjoined to an alley, said the council might be acting too quickly and without regard for property owners.

“My concern is that we’re not taking steps to get some legal clar­i­fi­cation for the owners’ sake,” he said. “Neighbors that get along great are not going to have a problem with it, but neighbors that never speak and might be a little greedier with land could have an issue over what we’re doing here.”

Coun­cilman Adam Stockford agreed.

“I hate to drop a dirt pie on somebody’s lap, even with good inten­tions,” he said. “I think this is some­thing we should move forward with, but I do think we don’t under­stand all of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of what we’re doing.”

Stockford responded to those still unhappy with the inevitable tax hikes:

“No one likes their taxes going up, but that’s just how it is.”