by ANDREW NEAL
Tuesday’s Shelby Township Board of Trustees meeting included a Public Hearing for Necessity regarding a sewer project proposal that could potentially cost property owners in the area over $14,000 per acre.
The engineer’s estimate for the job is a little over $13 million. It would affect 82 properties and 913 acres from 26 Mile Road to 25 Mile Road, from Hayes to Jewell, and in surrounding areas (see map for details).
Residents in the affected area showed up en masse to express their collective sticker shock to Board members, suggest they scrap the plan altogether, and consider who stands to benefit most from the project.
A property development company that owns a large swathe of land on the west side of 25 Mile Road and Schoenherr played a key role in a petition that was submitted to the Township Board to form a Special Assessment District (SAD), phase one in bringing the infrastructure project to life.
The petition received 64.8% support within the affected geographic region, as determined by the Assessor – above the 51% needed to form the SAD.
“Large tract property owners are the ones that are primarily driving the petition,” Public Works Director Dave Miller told the Gazette, “and I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody.”
“There’s about a 10 step, five Resolution process. First Resolution is to establish the district and have the construction plans drawn and an estimate. Second Resolution would be to establish the public hearing date for the Public Hearing and Necessity, which is where we’re at right now,” he said Tuesday.
Specific costs per parcel were not addressed at the meeting by Miller because they have not been determined yet.
In Resolution three, the Township bids out the job, determines the exact cost of the project, and sends those figures to the Assessor to develop the roll, or in other words- divvy up the bill among the affected parcels.
Resolution four involves a Public Hearing on Cost and Resolution five is a vote to spread the roll (i.e. place liens on the properties and begin construction).
“We’re probably to the middle of the process right now,” he said, “but we’re through the Public Hearing and Necessity.”
Several residents whose land falls in the district expressed their concerns Tuesday. They currently use septic fields and wells to address their sewer and water needs.
“What are the benefits to me? Absolutely none,” one man said. “Who’s getting the benefit out of this? Is it the man who owns the 3,000 foot on Schoenherr? Because once the sewer and water is in, you know he’s going to develop his property and all these people back there are going to pay a tap-in fee but they’re not going to pay for these sewers.”
“I have some major concerns about the cost of this project too,” another said. “Initially when the project started and you had 61% of property owners sign the petition, I believe that 61% was only six or eight parties that own that much of the property, so it’s clear who’s looking for the benefit from this.”
“The developer should bear the burden of the entire cost and not put that on us that don’t need it or want it,” a greenhouse business owner said.
A representative for a landholdings company that is one of the larger landowners in the special district said, “This is property that is within and part of your master plan.”
“The master plan calls for the development of this property into small clusters to help preserve the open space and natural features of the property. This can only be done through the construction of public sewers.”
The project only calls for a sanitary sewer system at the moment, and not water.
Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said in an email to the Gazette the day after, “I was really glad to see so many of our residents brave the weather and come out to give us their feedback at the Board meeting. There were a lot of questions, particularly pertaining to cost. That is why last night’s resolution was so important.”
He said the resolution will allow the Township to work to get the exact costs for the residents in the area “and have a very clear idea of what the financial impact of this project will be.”
“Thankfully we have a great team led by DPW Director Dave Miller and Engineer Carol Thurber leading us through this,” he said, “and I’m confident we will get all the answers we need to make the best possible decision for all of the township’s residents.”
“We’ve never had a project of this magnitude,” DPW Director Dave Miller said, adding “We’ve spent the better part of a year developing the engineering plans.”
Township Assessor Matt Schmidt’s initial involvement in the project was helping to address easement issues and determining what properties would fall in the special district.
His involvement will continue when he has to determine how to best spread the special assessment cost throughout the property owners in the district.
Resolution four, the Public Hearing for Cost, is set to take place in 90 to 120 days.