Houghton Lake Area Tourism & Convention Bureau v. Wood

Decision Date02 April 2003
Docket NumberDocket No. 232031.
Citation255 Mich. App. 127,662 N.W.2d 758
PartiesHOUGHTON LAKE AREA TOURISM & CONVENTION BUREAU, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Suzette WOOD, d/b/a Rose-O-Day Motel, Defendant-Appellant, and Tim O'Neil, d/b/a Rose-O-Day Motel, Defendant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Hess & Hess, P.C. (by Troy B. Daniel), Roscommon, for the plaintiff.

Arvid Perrin, Houghton Lake, for the defendant.

Before: MARKEY, P.J., and CAVANAGH and R.P. GRIFFIN1, JJ.


Suzette Wood (hereafter defendant) appeals by leave granted the circuit court's order affirming the district court's order that granted summary disposition in favor of plaintiff Houghton Lake Area Tourism & Convention Bureau and remanded the matter to the district court for proceedings consistent with the provisions of the district court's order. We reverse.


Plaintiff bureau is a nonprofit corporation that promotes convention business or tourism within the Houghton Lake area. MCL 141.872(e). According to the parties, pursuant to the powers conferred upon it by the Community Convention or Tourism Marketing Act, M.C.L. § 141.871 et seq., plaintiff decided to establish a marketing program and assessment district to establish a means of promoting convention business or tourism within the proposed district. To this end, plaintiff initiated a referendum among the owners of transient facilities located within the proposed assessment district. Each owner was allotted votes equivalent to the number of rooms in the owner's facility. MCL 141.873, M.C.L. § 141.873a, M.C.L. § 141.874. A transient facility is a "building or combination of buildings under common ownership, operation, or management that contains 10 or more rooms used in the business of providing dwelling, lodging, or sleeping to transient guests, whether or not membership is required for the use of the rooms." MCL 141.872(m). Transient guests are those who stay fewer than thirty consecutive days. MCL 141.872(n). The owners of transient facilities approved the marketing plan and assessment district. Thereafter, the marketing plan and assessment district became effective, and the owners of the transient facilities within the district became liable for an assessment of up to two percent of their gross occupancy charges. MCL 141.873a, M.C.L. § 141.873.

According to the parties, at the time of the referendum, the owners of the Rose-O-Day Motel, Elmer and Gladys Sikkema, represented to plaintiff bureau that their motel had ten rooms. Accordingly, they cast ten votes against the marketing plan and assessment district. The parties also represented that the Sikkemas paid the assessment from October 1994 until September 1996. They transferred operation of the motel to Larry Wilding in October 1996 under a lease with an option to purchase. Wilding refused to pay the assessment. Plaintiff then filed suit against Wilding in district court. Wilding responded that he was not subject to the assessment because he only rented nine rooms. Wilding's lease expired during the pendency of the district court action. The Sikkemas then leased the motel to defendant and Tim O'Neil with an option to purchase in August 1998. Defendant eventually purchased the motel. Thereafter, the suit against Wilding was dismissed.

In January 1999, plaintiff commenced the instant suit against defendant and O'Neil after plaintiff did not receive any assessment payments. O'Neil was subsequently dismissed by stipulation. Both parties thereafter moved for summary disposition. Defendant asserted that she did not operate a transient facility within the meaning of the act because she no longer used ten rooms for transient guests. According to Wilding, he only rented nine rooms to guests when he operated the motel. Defendant said that when she entered the lease, there were nine motel rooms, a living quarters, an upstairs apartment, and an uninhabitable "night-manager's efficiency apartment" with direct access to the motel office. Defendant said the efficiency apartment was then being used for storage, but she furnished and restored it. On a diagram, defendant included ten units and numbered the efficiency apartment as unit six.

Defendant rented unit six to a local pharmacist from September 11, 1998, to October 10, 1998, and to a different renter from October 10, 1998, to October 1, 1999. In an October 1999 affidavit, defendant testified that she was then converting it to an office for her real estate business. According to defendant, she had resided in the living quarters since her lease began in August 1998. She said the upstairs apartment was always rented on a nine-month lease; she leased the apartment to a renter from August 23, 1998, to June 10, 1999.

Defendant noted that her lease with the Sikkemas expressly referred to nine motel rooms: a provision stated that the furniture in all nine motel rooms was included in the lease. She acknowledged that the motel had the capacity to rent ten rooms to transient guests but claimed it was not practicable and denied that the motel was presently configured to accommodate transient guests in ten rooms.

In January 2000, the district court denied defendant's motion for summary disposition. In its opinion, the district court held that because the motel was subject to assessment when the marketing program began, it could not later withdraw, even if it had only nine rooms available for transient guests when defendant owned it. The court found that the statute's purpose, to promote tourism, would be frustrated if an owner could reduce the transient guest rooms to nine and stop paying the assessment. Further, the court found that because voluntary members could not leave under M.C.L. § 141.879(2), it was reasonable to assume the Legislature also intended that mandatory members could not leave. In a second opinion, the district court rejected defendant's argument that the dismissal of plaintiff's lawsuit against Wilding had a res judicata or collateral estoppel effect or that the second dismissal rule prevented the present suit. Because the district court overlooked plaintiff's summary disposition motion when deciding defendant's motion, the district court subsequently held a hearing and granted plaintiff's motion. The court again held that an owner cannot escape the assessment by reducing the number of rooms for transient guests; the court restated its earlier reasoning. The district court's order required defendant to submit to plaintiff's accountant within thirty days after entry of the order a list of her aggregate room charges for each month from August 18, 1998, to the date of the order and thereafter submit to the accountant a copy of her State Use Tax returns within thirty days after the close of each calendar quarter.

Defendant appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the district court's decision. The circuit court indicated that it was persuaded by the same arguments set forth in the district court's opinions. This Court granted leave to appeal the circuit court's decision.


On appeal, defendant first argues that her motel does not fall within the statutory definition of "transient facility" because the motel does not have ten or more rooms used in the business of lodging transient guests. We conclude that defendant's motel does not meet the definition of a transient facility.

This Court reviews summary disposition decisions de novo. Alcona Co. v. Wolverine Environmental Production, Inc., 233 Mich.App. 238, 245, 590 N.W.2d 586 (1998); Hubscher & Son, Inc. v. Storey, 228 Mich.App. 478, 480, 578 N.W.2d 701 (1998). This Court also reviews de novo issues of statutory interpretation. In re MCI Telecom. Complaint, 460 Mich. 396, 413, 596 N.W.2d 164 (1999).

The district and circuit courts did not indicate under which subsection of MCR 2.116(C) summary disposition was granted. Plaintiff's motion cited both MCR 2.116(C)(9), failure to state a valid defense, and (10), no genuine issue regarding any material fact. Because the district court considered documents outside the pleadings when it granted plaintiff summary disposition, Ritchie-Gamester v. City of Berkley, 461 Mich. 73, 76, 597 N.W.2d 517 (1999), this Court should analyze the decision as a grant of summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), see Gibson v. Neelis, 227 Mich.App. 187, 190, 575 N.W.2d 313 (1997).

In the lower courts and on appeal, defendant has not challenged the assertion that the Rose-O-Day Motel had ten rooms for transient guests when the marketing program began in 1994. Further, plaintiff has not claimed that defendant actually rents ten units to transient guests. The issue is solely one of statutory interpretation.

When interpreting a statute, this Court's goal must be to give effect to the Legislature's intent. In re MCI, supra at 411

, 596 N.W.2d 164; Barr v. Mt. Brighton, Inc., 215 Mich.App. 512, 516, 546 N.W.2d 273 (1996). This Court may not impose its own policy choices when interpreting a statute. People v. McIntire, 461 Mich. 147, 152, 599 N.W.2d 102 (1999); Stabley v. Huron-Clinton Metro. Park Auth., 228 Mich.App. 363, 370, 579 N.W.2d 374 (1998). If the statute defines a term, that definition must control. Tryc v. Michigan Veterans' Facility, 451 Mich. 129, 136, 545 N.W.2d 642 (1996). This Court should give undefined words their plain and ordinary meaning. Frankenmuth Mut. Ins. Co. v. Marlette Homes, Inc., 456 Mich. 511, 515, 573 N.W.2d 611 (1998); Tryc, supra at 135-136, 545 N.W.2d 642. If the statute is unambiguous, this Court must not engage in judicial construction. In re MCI, supra at 411, 596 N.W.2d 164. This Court must presume the Legislature intended the meaning it expressed. Decker v. Flood, 248 Mich.App. 75, 82, 638 N.W.2d 163 (2001).

This Court must not determine whether there is a "more proper way" the Legislature should have chosen, but...

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