KALKASKA — A group of riparian property owners around East Lake in rural Kalkaska County want a special tax zone for waterway maintenance.
John Laczkowski said he and many of his lakeside neighbors asked the Orange Township Board of Trustees to consider the creation of a special assessment district for the 51 shoreline property owners around East Lake. The idea is to tack on $120 to their property taxes to pay for various water quality and vegetation efforts, but the township clerk reported officials weren’t keen on the proposal at their last meeting.
“What we’re looking to accomplish is the special assessment district providing uninterrupted funding for, say, the next 10 years, to do water quality monitoring and also monitoring for invasive species and removal of invasive species, as well as built up root masses,” Laczkowski said.
The floating root masses are primarily caused by native lily pads that accumulate and become entangled. East Lake doesn’t currently have any invasive species but both reed canary grass and purple loosestrife have in the past been removed from the area by the lake property owners association, said Laczkowski, a member of the group’s board.
Among the 51 lakeside property owners, 37 responded positively to a special assessment district survey, while six said they were opposed and eight could not be reached or didn’t reply, Laczkowski said.
Orange Township officials are set to meet Monday.
“We did our homework and I’m going into Monday’s meeting hopeful they will have the leadership to start the process,” Laczkowski said.
However, township Clerk Eric Hendricks said the matter is not scheduled for a decision during Monday’s meeting. It’s a question that’s been raised in years past and elected officials aren’t yet convinced such a special tax zone is needed, he said.
“We’ve done testing and there are no issues with the lake. We are not interesting in doing a special assessment district if there’s not a problem,” Hendricks said. “Sounds like they are interested in removing lily pads and making the lake not what it is. That’s what the lake has always been like.”
Lakeshore property owners can always file formal petitions and have the question placed on the ballot for the affected landowners, should township officials refuse to begin the process to create the requested district, Hendricks said.
Kalkaska County Clerk Deb Hill said citizens can petition to have election questions placed on their ballot, but she does not know whether special assessment districts qualify as an election issue. She awaits clarification from the Michigan Bureau of Elections.
This story was updated at 1:19 p.m. July 9 to clarify that Kalkaska County Clerk Deb Hill is awaiting an answer about whether special assessment districts are ballot questions.