June 11, 2014 - By Katie Winkler
Review Staff Writer
Homeowners in Orion Township are taking action to maintain their neighborhood roads and lakes with eight special assessment districts (SAD) underway.
The areas are in and around: Central Lake Drive, Elkhorn Lake, Lake Orion, Mill Lake, Square Lake and Sun Set Hills communities.
According to the Orion Township supervisor, Chris Barnett, a SAD allows people in any defined area to ask the township to assess their tax bill for some sort of enhancement. This gives residents the opportunity to make improvements and make sure that those who benefit are the ones paying.
"This is a tool to make sure everyone participates. This goes right on people's [winter] tax bills. So they are not able to opt out unless they go to a tax tribunal, where they plead their case and are decided if they are in or out," Barnett said.
Many are unsuccessful because the opponent must prove that they are not getting any benefit from the SAD.
When community members decide what work needs to be done, they take their project to the township, which maps out the boundaries. After paying a non-refundable filing fee, a petition is handed out.
For road issues, 51 percent of those on the road must agree. Lake SADs require 51 percent of total land area. Once signatures are collected, the township board meets and "authorizes preparation of improvement plan and cost estimate," making this the first formal action in the SAD process.
The board sets the date for the first public hearing, where the board listens to objections and gives overall cost estimate. If the board decides that this task will benefit the surrounding people, the second public hearing is scheduled to show what each parcel will pay.
After the two public hearings, township board may "reject or confirm the special assessment roll."
Orion Township is dealing with the eight SADs. Six are renewals, while Central Drive Road Improvement SAD and Lake Orion Water Quality Control SAD number one are new.
The board will ask to set the first public hearing for Central Drive, and the renewal of Elkhorn Lake Water Quality Control SAD number 5, on July 7. They will discuss cost estimates for repaving Central drive from Indianwood Road to the township boundary with the Village of Lake Orion.
"This is an interesting case because the township portion of Central Drive that they want to have resurfaced is a peninsula. So the only access to all these houses is Central Drive. Even if they don't live right on the road, they have benefit because they're driving on it," Barnett said. "Most of the people complaining about the terrible status of the road are the people that live in the village, not on that road."
On June 2, the board will ask to set the first public hearing for Lake Orion on July 7, which will explain total cost estimates for the weed, algae eradication and control.
Square Lake has three SADs in place. Since Square Lake is a public lake, community members can be charged because they have access. Square Lake Water Quality Control SAD number one will provide pump maintenance/ replacement to keep the water level and has a second public hearing scheduled for July 7.
Owners of parcels will find out on June 16, during their second public hearing, what the electric fees to run the pump will be issued through Square Lake Water Quality Control SAD number two. Square Lake Water Quality Control SAD number three maintains the weed and algae eradication and control, which will be discussed during the special assessment on the roll July 7.
"Of the people that came to the meeting on April 23, most people are in favor," Barnett said. "The only people that weren't are the ones who were worried about what happens if the weed treatment doesn't work. Is the company going to come back and fix the problem, and stuff like that."
Mill Lake Gardens Chloride SAD number three will hold their first public hearing on June 16 to discuss chloride treatment on private roads to assess the total cost estimate. Sun Set Hills & Sun Set Hills Road Maintenance SAD number two will cover the chloride treatments on roads, snow and ice control, gravel, grading tree and bush trimming and drainage maintenance at the second public hearing June 16.
"Our role is to allow these to happen and make everyone participates. We are able to do that by putting it on their [winter] taxes.The rest of the project is all sorted out by homeowners," Barnett said. "I think SAD's are extremely positive because they are driven by our residents and by residents' requests. It's a tool that we have to help get stuff done."