July 09, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Since winter, multiple roads in the township and village of Lake Orion have crumbled and been patched together again resulting in different states of drivability.
Central Dr. was one of the worst and the township board of trustees took action on Monday.
Instead of requiring a 51 percent vote of homeowners whose parcels touch Central Dr. to sign a petition for a special assessment district to resurface the road, board members approved the cost estimate for a township initiated special assessment district (SAD) at the board meeting.
Central Dr. is managed by the Road Commission for Oakland County and is categorized as a local, subdivision road, unlike Waldon Rd., which has more chance to be funded as a primary paved road.
Subdivision roads like Central Dr. and Pine Tree will never receive public funding from the county or township to be resurfaced because tax dollars are not collected for that, Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett explained at the meeting.
The only chance at paving a local, subdivision road such as Central Dr. is through a SAD, he continued.
"Not one penny of your township or village taxes goes to roads, which are funded strictly by the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees," Barnett said. "Unless the state does a major overhaul of road funding, the only real way to get them [subdivision roads] resurfaced is through an SAD."
Gas funding was almost set in June when the governor and Senate majority supported an increase in road funding.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville from Monroe proposed a shift in the gas tax from a flat 19 cents per gallon to a percentage of the wholesale price. The proposal was rejected, according to an article released by the Road Commission for Oakland County.
The next best opportunity to address road funding won't arrive until the "lame duck" session after the November election.
"It's too bad a few legislators are able to hold the whole state hostage," RCOC Managing Director Dennis Kolar said in the article titled "Once again, Michigan legislature punts on road funding."
Still, roads like Central—which was the first to be patched of all Orion roads in May—will only get worse again this coming winter.
Since January, Barnett has received an onslaught of complaints about many subdivision roads, with Central Dr. residents being some of the squeakiest wheels.
"We usually require the 51 percent of signatures but this road is such a weird situation in that it's a peninsula. The only way residents can get to their houses is off this road," Barnett said. "So we started the process because they (the residents) were having a hard time getting all of the petitions."
Totaling $433,700, all village and township homeowners on and intersecting with Central drive beginning at Indianwood Rd. would be included in the district.
Each of the 170 affected parcels would pay roughly $2,500 over a ten year span with a five percent interest, or a lump sum at the beginning. Each property would be assessed equally, not based on frontage.
Setting the roll would be the next step at a public hearing, which can take between 30 and 45 days.
"We are seeing if people want this or if people don't," Barnett said ."It was based on the number of complaints that were received by the township, I'm not making this up, during the months of January through May when they [Oakland County Road Commission] finally patched your road."
Because this is a unique, township initiated SAD, unlike many of the other SAD's being discussed currently, Central Dr. residents have an equally unique option to appeal the potential district.
If at least 20 percent of the parcel owners sign a petition opposing the SAD before the roll is set they can challenge the roll and throw it out.
"Once you put it up we're stuck with something that isn't based on a 51 percent vote. How much of this again was the fact that some small number of people put together a petition?" Dave Archer, of Fairview St. asked.
Officials did not know the number of how many property owners signed the first petition requesting the SAD, but reported that the idea was initiated by residents primarily in the village 18 months ago.
Many of the Central Dr. residents present at the board meeting voiced their concerns that with an improved road surface comes even faster drivers.
"You have the one "S" curve, then the other "S" curve and then the strait of way, and that's where everybody hits it. I would rather see it go back to gravel than pave it," Gale Miller said, opposing the SAD.
Residents along Chamberlin St. Fariview St. Sheron St. and Shorewood Ave. and smaller roads at the tip of the peninsula are included in the district too.
"We just use this much of Central," Mike Isola said, holding up a tiny pinch with his fingers. "We come off Central a little bit and boom we're on our dirt road. I know Central needs to get paved but it should be divvied up just a little bit different."
Additional emails were mailed to the clerk's office regarding the SAD district, 18 opposing and 11 in favor.
Others took a more neutral stance.
"I'd like to see it fixed, but I don't want to pay for it. But if that's what's got to happen, that's what's got to happen," said Central Dr. resident Martin Russell.
Donna Champagne of Fairview was also in support for safety reasons on one of the blind curves.
"There was a truck, me and the biker all lined up. I came within 12 inches of hitting her, and it scared me beyond words," she said. "I'm in favor."