Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Statement Regarding the LIPOA's Annual Election

Dear Candidates,
As a matter of practice the Village does not like to interject ourselves into the business or affairs of the LIPOA. However, it has come to my attention this weekend that I have been used as a quotable source in the campaign literature for a slate of candidates seeking election to the LIPOA Board.

To begin with I have not endorsed any candidate, in any district, for representation on the LIPOA Board... nor do I intend to. I believe doing so would not be in the best interest of the Village or LIPOA, and sincerely desire for our two organizations to work in harmony for the good of the entire community. Likewise, the Village of Lake Isabella, Village Council, or Village Manager have taken no official position with respect to the treatment of the lake, or whether or not a draw-down should occur.

There is an item that has been inaccurately reported in this literature which I would like to address. The 1982 court order by judge McConnell contains both the words "may" and "shall" with respect to a draw-down of Lake Isabella. The exact wording of the order is:

"It is hereby ordered that the water level of Lake Isabella may be drawn down annually from its normal level of 895 feet above mean sea level, to a level not lower than 885 feet above mean sea level.

It is further ordered that such annual draw-down shall commence on or about October 15th, except for 1982, in which case draw-down shall commence forthwith. The draw-down shall occur under the supervision of the Isabella County Drain Commissioner, and be conducted in a controlled manner over a period of time so as to allow monitoring of the flow of water to aid in avoiding the development of adverse conditions downstream...It is further ordered that the Isabella County Drain Commissioner shall take appropriate action to return the water level of Lake Isabella to its normal level of 895 feet above mean seal level, such action to commence annually on or about March 15th, or at such time as the spring thaw occurs."

The wording of this opinion is less than clear. In that on one hand it discusses the draw-down with the word “may.” Yet, on the other hand it discusses the draw-down with the word “shall.” I am by no means an attorney, but believe that the wording of the opinion could have been better for those of us reading it nearly 30 years later.

In 1998 the LIPOA sought clarification regarding this wording. The Isabella County Prosecutor issued an opinion that he believes the wording was permissive, not mandatory, regarding the ability to conduct a draw-down. This has been verified to me by two different sources, and I have personally seen a copy of the opinion. From discussions with previous LIPOA board members the intent of the 1982 order was to allow the LIPOA the ability to conduct a draw-down if they so desired. The court order gave the LIPOA the option of conducting a draw-down, and set specific conditions on how such draw-down was to occur.

Additionally, the wording of the literature suggests that it is my personal opinion that the current LIPOA Board is acting in direct conflict with the 1982 court order. This is not the case. I know from firsthand discussions that the then President of the LIPOA cast the tie-breaking vote to not lower the lake in the mid 1990s. Likewise, this is the last, and only, time that I am aware of the LIPOA Board taking action on the issue. The former President informed me that it was not a "never again" motion, simply that they were not going to lower it for that winter.

About 5 years ago a group of concerned citizens funded an effort to have the dam inspected by an independent third party. I was present for this inspection which was recorded on video tape. The underwater diver found the concrete and berm to be in excellent condition. The diver observed that the intake pipe to the sluice box was missing its screen cover, and that the gate needed repairs.

To the best of my knowledge, these repairs were completed and the dam as it exists today is fully functional and in good working condition.

If anyone has questions regarding this matter, please call me at my office 644-8654.
Tim Wolff
Village Manager

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Let's Talk about Blight

Mike Tyson is known for saying "everyone's got a plan, until they get hit." When the original developers of Lake Isabella started forming the community, they also had a plan. Part of their plan was to establish an early cash-flow in order to fund the rest of the development process. This plan included allowing single-wide mobile homes in three plats of Lake Isabella.

These three plats, Lake Isabella Forest 1 (1969), Lake Isabella Forest 2 (1971), and Lake Isabella Woods (1968) are the only three plats in the community where single-wide mobile homes were permitted. By being permissive to single-wides, the developers hoped they could quickly sell lots and bring people into the community. This would give them funds and word-of-mouth to help spur interest in the rest of the development.

To appreciate the mindset one should also consider the views of John Steinbeck in his book "Travels with Charley." The book published in 1962 recounts his 1960 cross country travel with his dog Charley. He show great interest in mobile homes, and how it was a symbol of a changing America. An America where historical family roots seemed to matter less than our ability to find a more pleasing place to live.

Over time what we have seen in these three plats is not the reality that Steinbeck saw. Rather, what was once a weekend "cottage" has been sold, passed-down, or inherited sometimes many times over. Often times the property goes through a period of neglect before a new owner takes interest.

On our end we see a disproportionate level of blight and code enforcement cases at our most seasoned single-wides in these three plats. All told nearly 25% of code enforcement violations come from less than 3% of our housing stock.

As such, in June I will be formally presenting a program to the Village Council to address this issue. Specifically, the idea is to sell a portion of the property we purchased from Mt. Pleasant Excavating on Coldwater Road to use as seed money in a revolving fund.

The money would fund the purchase of blighted properties and the demolition of the structure.  The main target would be properties foreclosed by Isabella County for unpaid property taxes.  As a local unit of government we have the ability to buy them before they are offered for public auction. Once the property was cleared, it would then be offered for sale, with the proceeds going back into the fund to continue the effort.

Our goals are simple:
1. Abate blight nuisances
2. Remove non-conforming structures
3. Insulate property values
4. Promote safe and healthy neighborhoods