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.

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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.

 

Sincerely,

Tim Wolff
Village Manager