Source: Sherman Publications

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Atlas Township Attorney response to Goodrich detachment vote

October 03, 2012

October 3, 2012

"The Board has not considered or adopted the information contained therein in any official capacity.

I am providing this as a courtesy considering you have been reporting on this issue," said David Lattie.

An open letter to the Atlas Township Board,

On November 6, 2012 Township residents will find the following language on the ballot:

Detachment is a legal process in which jurisdiction over property transfers from one local government to another. In this case, petitions were submitted to the County by residents in the area proposed to be detached. That area consists of 87 residential lots currently under the jurisdiction of the Village, which could be transferred to the jurisdiction of Atlas Township. Although Atlas and Goodrich share many services including police and fire protection, the Village owns and operates its local roads, sewer system, and has its own zoning ordinance and master plan.

Residents have inquired as to the potential effect of some of the changes. While State law has procedures in place to transfer these responsibilities, they are not formally implemented until the detachment vote occurs and is successful. Efforts to try to anticipate the final effects of detachment at this point are only estimates.

However, in an effort to provide some information prior to the vote, please consider the following:

Sewers-The Village and Township are members in the Genesee County Sewer System and have collector pipes and lift stations that move sewage to the County treatment facility. Both have sewer ordinances that contain capital fees (tap in fees) and user charges, and both pay the county for maintenance of the system. While the amount of capital and user charges may be different, the costs are borne by users in the detached areas. As for the value of the pipes and lift station in the detached areas, it appears the installation costs were paid by the developers, and the County CCIF fee and Village Capital fees have been paid by current residents, and will be paid by future users. As a result, it is highly unlikely reimbursement would be owed to the Village. Some Village officials incorrectly believe that the Township should reimburse the Village for construction costs it did not pay, an idea that was quickly rejected by the County representative, and not supported by Michigan case law. Future users will be required to pay applicable County connection fees and a connection fee to either the Township or Village.

Police and Fire Residents of the Village and Township jointly fund these services. No change in service or cost is anticipated.

Streets-The Village has the obligation to maintain local roads (excluding private). Township roads are owned and maintained by the Genesee County Road Commission. Similar to the developer paid sewer lines, developers paid for the construction of the roads and dedicated them (or they remained private) to the Village. It is anticipated that the Road Commission would take over maintenance of the roads, and receive whatever Act 51 money from the State that Goodrich received for maintenance. As in the case of the sewers, the Township would not expect to reimburse the Village for what was paid for by others and held in trust for residents use. Residents in the proposed detached areas can expect the same level of service Atlas Township residents currently receive.

Zoning- All of the proposed lots are residential. It is likely the Township would amend their Zoning Ordinance and Master Plans to include those areas into the most similar Township residential zoning districts. In the event the minimum requirements of the district are different, the Township may consider existing lots and structures pre-existing non-conforming uses, which will be allowed to continue indefinitely in their current configuration.

There may be additional issues raised if the statutory process is implemented. While the Home Rule Village Act does not provide for any pro-ration of assets and liabilities, Act 38 of 1883 pertaining to division of lands (primarily cities and townships) arguably may allow for an accounting and division of assets and liabilities between two municipalities relating to the lands detached.

As previously stated, Township will abide by lawful procedures and requirements, and will strive to minimize the costs in this process.


David L. Lattie

Attorney at Law