Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lake Isabella Raises Concern over Proposed County Budget

First, after taking some time off from blogging the Village would like to relaunch our blog as part of our effort to increase our communication with the community.  In the 2012-2013 Village budget funds were allocated to also begin publishing our community newsletter on a quarterly basis.  Our next newsletter installment will be around the 1st of October.

Also, to increase your ability to stay informed of the business of the Village, starting this year we have been posting all of our meeting packets online.  Please visit the "Meeting Minutes" page of our website.  On this page of our website you can also see the approved version of the minutes from Village meetings, as well as the Agenda if the minutes have not been approved yet.

At the last meeting of the Village Council, held on August 21st, the Village Council adopted a Resolution which asks our County Commissioner to reject one of the budget proposals currently on the table at the County level.  That budget proposal would eliminate funding for zoning services at the county level.  A full copy of this information can be found on pages 104 - 112 of the packet.

Below is the text of a letter that the Village sent not only to our County Commissioner, but to all members of the County Board of Commissioners.


Dear County Commissioners,

Last night our Village Council reviewed part of the proposed 2012-2013 budget for Isabella County.  The Village of Lake Isabella is understanding and sympathetic to the fiscal constraints faced by all local units of governments.  The decade long economic depression that our state has faced has tested all of us.  These times have presented all of us with challenges of providing essential public services in the leanest possible manner, and feel that Isabella County has done a fine job in that respect over the years.

With that in mind, the Village of Lake Isabella is deeply concerned about the proposal to eliminate planning and zoning services in the 2012-2013 budget.  The elimination of planning and zoning services would be detrimental not only to the 9 townships that rely on this service from Isabella County, but also for those other jurisdictions which administer and enforcement land use regulation.  Such a move on the part of Isabella County could have consequences which impact all of our local units for years to come.  We strongly urge you to continue to support planning and zoning services at the County level.

The Village is specifically concerned a likely scenario which will certainly happen in time if these services are eliminated.  While on the surface one may think that this action would impact the 9 townships presently under county zoning, but I can assure you that the impact will be far greater than that.  As one of the local units that handle our own planning and zoning we are deeply concerned that this action may leave land adjacent and abutting our incorporated boundaries unzoned and unregulated.  In such a scenario is not only possible, but likely, that in time the lack of land use control will allow the development of a nearby use which is detrimental to property values and the quality of life enjoyed by our residents.  This scenario may not happen specifically to Lake Isabella, but when you look at what areas could remain unzoned in the county and then consider the adjacent jurisdictions that are zoned the risks become clear.

Not only is there a clear risk as detailed above, but it also creates an incentive for sprawl  in these unzoned areas.  The economic impact of this action may very well come back and cost the residents of the county more in the long-term than the County government saves in the short-term. The elimination of planning and zoning services would create an imbalance in terms of economic development incentives, which would fuel and encourage development in areas where there is insufficient infrastructure to properly support said development.  If that occurs in an unzoned area there would be no site plan review process to ensure that adequate public services exist which can support the new development.  These infrastructure demands will have to be met by some local government agency, more than likely being Isabella County or the Isabella County Road Commission.

The big picture economics of this proposal also do make sense to the Village.  While in the short-term Isabella County may experience a savings of roughly $149,000 per year, over time the reduction in property values due to the improper development of the unzoned areas of Isabella County, coupled with increased infrastructure costs call into question the financial sustainability of this proposal.

The nine townships currently being served by Isabella County account for over 2.7 million dollars annually of tax revenue collected by the county and this proposed service elimination is projected to save $149,000 over a full budget year.  This savings is roughly 5.4% of the total tax collection revenue for these 9 townships.  The Village would like to strongly encourage Isabella County to consider what this action would do to the tax base of those 9 townships.  We believe that a fair case can be made that the elimination of planning and zoning services would have a negative impact on property values at a level that ultimately may end up costing the county more in the long-term in lost revenue than is gained by the staff reduction.

We strongly encourage you to carefully weight this choice.  Attached is a Resolution formally adopted by our Village Council for your consideration.  We are also open to further discussion and dialogue on how we may be of assistance to Isabella County in creating a meaningful discussion that spans jurisdictional boundaries which focuses on legitimate collaboration and long-term planning on a regional scale.



Tim Wolff
Village Manager

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fire Protection Special Assessment Hearing

Our residents that own property in Broomfield Township should be receiving a notice in the mail today for next week's public hearing for the renewal of the special assessment district which provides fire/rescue services in that portion of the Village.

This is the annual renewal of the special assessment district, and is not a new assessment or tax.  This special assessment district has been in place since around 2000, and was created at the request of Village residents living in Broomfield Township.  Broomfield Township provides fire protection coverage via the Wheatland F.D. located in Remus.  Whereas our residents that also reside in Sherman Township are serviced by the Nottawa-Sherman F.D. located in Weidman. 

Residents of both Sherman and Nottawa townships pay an additional 1 Mill for fire protection services via voter approved ballot proposals.  Our residents are able to have this coverage extended to them by paying the same Millage rate as those residents.  The only difference being that the Village acts as the collection agent and not Sherman Township.

The public hearing for the renewal is planned for next Tuesday as part of the April Village Council meeting beginning at 7 PM.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

General Public Meeting for USDA Funding

On Tuesday, March 13th the Planning Commission will hold a General Public Meeting (just another way of saying "Public Hearing") on our funding application to the USDA as part of the unbuildable lots work in southern Lake Isabella.  This is the last step in the process of submitting a completed application to the USDA for funding assistance. Our engineers will be at the meeting to give an overview of the project and estimated costs. It is our plan to have more meetings this summer after we submit the finalized application and hear back from the USDA with solid numbers on the actual funding options.

Last year the Village submitted a preliminary application to see if the project was even eligible for funding via the USDA Rural Development. The USDA responded that the project was eligible, but several items were needed on the part of the Village to finalize the application and determine if any grant funds would be available to the project. A copy of that letter is on our website at: http://www.lakeisabellami.org/USDA%20Funding%20Letter.pdf
The USDA specifically requested that we do the following to finalize the application (see page 2 of their letter):

1. Complete an Environmental Report. This was done for the Village at no cost by the Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP). A copy of the report, and the notice of the availability of the report are both on the homepage to our website.

2. Submit a draft engineering agreement. This has been done at our request by our engineering firm.

3. Hold a General Public Meeting.

All of this is part of our on-going effort to address the decades old problem of unbuildable lots in portions of the Village. In 2008 the Village undertook environmental testing in the 5 plats which had restrictions on the number of on-site well and septic systems which could be developed. That testing showed that in 2 of the plats (Lake Isabella Airpark & Canterbury Estates) the soil and groundwater conditions were suitable for further development. In one of the other three plats (Lake Isabella North) we found conditions were suitable through most of the plat. We are working on an alternative solution in that plat with the MDEQ, Isabella County, and CMDHD. The last two plats (Lake Isabella South & Lake Isabella Golf Estates II) have widespread areas where further development of on-site systems is not environmentally feasible. As both of these areas are recorded plats, we are confined to finding a solution which addresses the problem for all lots in the plat. After multiple studies (all of which can be found on our website at http://www.lakeisabellami.org/unbuildable_lots.htm) We have elected to pursue a STEP wastewater collection and treatment system as the idea to eventually propose to the property owners in these two plats.

The meeting on the 13th is only to satisfy our application requirements with the USDA. The Planning Commission is only receiving public comment which will be sent to the USDA, the matter will not be voted on at this time. Likewise, nothing done by the Village obligates the community to moving forward with the project or funding. It is our hope that with a finalized application, we will be able to fully present accurate cost information to the public later this year in the meetings referenced above. The Village has always maintained the position that we will only go as far as the property owners tell us to, and will not under any condition move forward without a majority of those property owners supporting the project. That phase of the project should be this summer once we have submitted a final and complete application to the USDA.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blight Reduction Program

Very soon the first target on the Village's blight reduction program will only be a memory.  2 large dumpsters will soon be filled with what once was 1009 Vallado Drive.  This location is an excellent example of why the program is needed.  1009 Vallado was once a very nice dwelling, however over time the property fell into disrepair to the point where the needed repairs became cost prohibitive.  In 2011 the Village's building inspector issued a notice to the former owner of the code violations with respect to the Michi  The location also has a high volume of Code Enforcement cases.

Once the site has been cleared the Village will look to sell the vacant property and use those funds to further the effort to removed blighted properties in the Village.  If you are interested in serving on a citizen's advisory committee that helps guide our blight reduction program, please get in touch with the Village Manager.  He can be reached via email at tim@lakeisabellami.org or via phone at 989.644.8654.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unbuildable Lots Update

Late last week staff from the Village and Rowe PSC were in Lansing to meet with representatives of the USDA.  For those who have followed this project closely you'll know that using the USDA is the Village's first choice in terms of funding for the project, if it moves forward.  In 2011 the Village obtained a letter of funding eligibility from the USDA that outlined assistance that could be offered to the Village in the project.

Since then the Village has been working with the USDA to get a better handle on the specific requirements of the funding if the project moves forward.  The primary area of concern on the part of the Village was the initial direction of the USDA stressing the need for the Village to obtain easements from all existing users in the proposed project for their future connection to the system.

In discussing this requirement with out engineers, the Village quickly came to the position that such a request was unrealistic, and rather that the obligation to obtain the easement for maintaining the on-site tank and pump should be a concern only when existing users connect to the proposed system.

In our meeting last week, the USDA staff agreed to the Village's position, and also strongly encouraged us to complete the remaining items from our letter of funding eligible due to the few projects currently being considered state-wide.  This lack of interest in USDA funding from other projects may make the Village's application score better when it comes time to actually allocate funding if the project moves forward.  With funding of this nature the higher score a project has, the more options it opens up to the project in terms of grants, and the interest rate on the loan component of the funding.

There are three items outstanding from the letter of funding eligibility.  Those three are to complete the Preliminary Environmental Report (PRE), conduct a General Public Meeting, and complete a draft engineering agreement.

Presently the Village has enlisted the help and services of the Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP) to complete the PRE.  This is being done at no cost to the Village.  Rowe PSC is working on completing the draft engineering agreement and also revising our application to reflect the discussion from last week's meeting.   Lastly, the Village is reviewing dates in late February or early March to conduct the General Public Meeting.

Even after these are completed and submitted the Village is in no manner obligated to move forward with the project.  The Village's efforts are focused on presenting the most complete proposal to the property owners in Lake Isabella South and Lake Isabella Golf Estates 2 for their consideration.  Ultimately it will be those property owners that would be directly impacted by this project which determine if it continues.  Until then, the Village will continue to work towards finding the most feasible solution to this decades old problem.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January's Planning Commission Meeting Recap

Last Tuesday the Planning Commission held its regular monthly meeting.  Three items of business were considered.  The most important of these items was the updated Site Plan for Isabella Pellet.  Last year when the Village Council granted an Industrial Facilities Personal Property Tax Exemption as allowed under Public Act 198,  the agreement between the Village and plant called for them to submit an updated Site Plan by the end of 2011.  The Council felt this was a needed requirement as the original Site Plan submitted by the plant did not fully reflect the scope of development that occurred.  Specifically, the equipment located outside of the facility.

At the meeting the Planning Commission discussed the development with management of the plant and were updated on items that the plant is working on to address the handful of concerns that have been voiced regarding noise and appearance.

After discussing the measures being taken by the plant, the Planning Commission requested that management of the plant and Village staff draft a timeline of steps of when certain items need to be in place and submit that plan for consideration as part of the approval for the updated Site Plan.  This timeline should be ready for the Planning Commission's consideration at their February meeting.

Also considered at this month's meeting was the possibility of including a special noise site plan requirement for non-residential development.  This idea originally was submitted to the Village during the update of the Village's noise ordinance in 2011.  However, prior to including it in the updated ordinance, the Village Council asked for additional review on the part of the Planning Commission.

After reviewing the draft submitted to the Village, the Planning Commission expressed concern over having two different plans in the approval process, and felt that it would be better to simply update the Site Plan review section of the zoning code to allow a greater review of noise and noise related activities.

Lastly, the Planning Commission prioritized its projects and goals for 2012.

A draft copy of the minutes are available for public inspection at the Village Hall.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact the Village Hall.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The 8th Session of the Village Council Begins

Last night marked the beginning of the 8th Session of the Village Council.  A Session of the Council is a 2 year period which coincides with the overlapping terms of office for members of the Council.  Last night also ushered in a new Council member.  John Eberhart was elected in September, taking the place of Elizabeth Miller who opted not to seek re-election.

At last night's meeting, the Council took care of the normal house keeping duties by electing officers, making committee appointments, and setting the normal meeting date and time.

The Council voted to retain its the previous slate of officers from the last Session of the Council.  This slate is:

Dave Torgerson, Village President
Dan Pattison, Village President Pro-Tempore
Charlie Kiel, Village Treasurer
Jeffrey P. Grey, Village Clerk
Arnold Griffin, Village Deputy Treasurer

Also at last night's meeting the Council filled its committee assignments.  The roster for the standing committees of the Village Council were set as:

Personnel Committee:
Dan Pattison, Chair
Dave Torgerson
Jeffrey P. Grey

Liaison Committee:
Arnold Griffin
Richard Lacca
John Eberhart

By law/Charter, the Finance and Election Committee are automatically comprised of the Village President, Village Clerk, and Village Treasurer.

Other appointments made last night were the following:

Village Council - Planning Commission Member: Jeffrey P. Grey
Village Council - Zoning Board of Appeals Member: Arnold Griffin
Village Representative to the JCCA: Tim Wolff
Village Deputy Clerk: Tim Wolff
Village Council - Airport Advisory Board: Charlie Kiel

The regular meeting date and time was voted to remain as the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM.

Finally, Village President Torgerson created a Special Ad-hoc Wildlife Management Committee to formulate a plan to address the deer over population problem.  Councilman Eberhart was charged with leading this committee.  Per the President's direction  the committee is to be compromised of 3 other members, with one of them being a representative of the LIPOA.

One committee that was not filled last nigth was the new selection committee.  At the Council's regular meeting in December the Village voted to create a "Wall of Honor" to give recognition to currenrt or former members of the community that have made a significant contribution.  This committee is to be made up of one current member of the Village Council, one former Village Council or Planning Commission member, and one member at-large from the community.

If you are interested in serving on either the Wildlife Management Committee or the Wall of Honor Selection Committee, please contact the Village Hall.