Special District Gets Final Board Approval

by ANDREW NEAL

After a lengthy five-resolution process to implement a special assessment district in the area of 25 and Schoenherr, the Shelby Township board of trustees unanimously approved the final resolution to levy the cost to landowners and begin construction.

The total cost is roughly $9 million and those that fall in the special district will have 10 years to pay, at a 2.5% rate. Treasurer Michael Flynn explained that the rate was determined based on the 10-year bond rate at the time the assessment packet was prepared.

“I think these rates are very fair,” Flynn noted.

Department of Public Works Director Dave Miller also addressed some residents’ questions at the meeting, like whether or not future connections will be allowed for people outside of the assessment district, specifically one property in particular. “They will not be able to connect to the sewer that’s part of this district. They will be required to take the sanitary sewer down Hayes road to 25 Mile road to connect.”

As to whether or not the district could include a pump station, Miller said, “There’s no avenue to get a pump station to the existing sanitary sewer without going through the route of the actual district.”

One question several residents have asked since the start of this special assessment district process was why the large property developer, who recently acquired land in the area and is primarily responsible for encouraging this construction, can’t just pay for the sewer entirely.

“I don’t believe Public Act 188 allows somebody else to pay for an assessment that is benefited to another parcel.”

However, it was later mentioned in the meeting that the developers, who own roughly 68% of the property in the district, will be paying a large majority of the costs.

Township Attorney Robert Huth, who has worked with the residents in the district to address their concerns, also provided his thoughts on the process. “We have reached resolutions with some of the folks who were at our last meeting and I believe the resolution is fair to the taxpayers as well as those individuals in the district. I would say that this board has been incredibly responsive in terms of giving those of us on the front lines the authority to get the deals done and I think that is why tonight, for all practical purposes, it’s been a relatively quiet public comment regarding this site,” Huth said.

Huth also addressed the site of Diegel Farms, a family farm in Shelby that falls within the district and whose owners have fought against the township going through with the district.

“With respect to their property, we have a framework for an agreement,” Huth said, adding that he expects it to be signed soon. “Philosophically, just so the board understands, there’s been concern raised by the audience, the board, as well as the property owners, that they do not feel comfortable charging the Diegel’s an assessment for sanitary sewer services that may not ever be used by them. It’s been a family farm for generations.”

The township has agreed that if the property continues to be used as it currently is, the assessment will not be levied. If in the future the property utilizes the sewer, the assessment cost must be paid.

Clerk Stanley Grot asked Huth to clarify the different agreements the township has made with various residents and who exactly will be charged. Huth noted that this district will have incurred little to no legal costs, which allows the township to work closely with the affected residents on various agreements.

“We can offer more to the residents if we know we don’t have to pay for legal… Folks in this community are very sophisticated and they understood that if we get to a resolution without going to court, the taxpayers as well those in the district, will be best served,” Huth said.

“I had a lot of hesitations because I didn’t want to hit the residents with a huge cost,” Grot said. “I talked to some residents prior to the meeting and they’re satisfied with the resolution, so I’m ok with that. I’m going to be voting affirmative.”

Supervisor Stathakis thanked those officials who have been involved in this project, working with the residents and each other to get questions answered. “We just wanted to make sure that we addressed all the concerns of the community and it sounds like we have.”

The resolution passed unanimously. The construction contract for the sewer project was awarded to Shelby Township business Dan’s Excavating at a cost of $6,575,000.