Eagle Harbor Web

An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

This section is very unofficial -- just observations of Your Editor.

Report On Highlights of September 11, 2000 Township Board Meeting.

Members Jim Boggio, John Clarkson, Gerry Johnson, Jeane Olson and Don Keith were present, as was Deputy Clerk Bruce Wagner and Deputy Treasurer Ann Johnson. The meeting was held in the Eagle Harbor School. About 35 people participated in a lively, interesting and productive session.

The August 14th Meeting Minutes were approved without amendment.

Board Approves Pinery Land Acquisition Agreement With Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund Supervisor Boggio presented and recommended Board approval of a draft agreement between the Township and the State of Michigan establishing the conditions and procedure for securing the Trust Fund set aside of not to exceed $493,077 to assist in the purchase of a 157 acre tract near lakes Eliza and Long (area known locally as "The Pinery") for "hunting, passive recreation and protection of natural resources" purposes. The Trust Fund grant would pay 75% of the estimated $657,436 acquisition cost. The Township would be responsible for the estimated $164,359 local 25% match. The agreement stipulates that the acquisition must be completed by September 30, 2001.

Jim noted that the Agreement requires the Township to secure two independent appraisals of the property's "fair market value" by State approved appraisers, and State approval of the appraisals, before the Township can make an offer for the property. He reported that the required appraisals had been secured and submitted to the State for review and approval. He also reported that officials of International Paper, the property owner, had reviewed the Agreement and expressed no objection to its provisions. He also noted that International Paper has tentatively agreed to place several hundred acres of contiguous land, extending westerly to the Copper Falls stamp sands, under Township recreation "management" if the acquisition of the 157-acre parcel is successfully completed.

The Supervisor said that the majority of the required local share would be funded with Water Fund Wellhead Protection funds since the acquisition would also serve to protect the aquifer supplying the Township's water system wells from development contamination.

The Agreement provides for State 75% reimbursement of the Township's acquisition cost, meaning the Township will need to temporarily "upfront" the estimated $493,077 State share. This presents a challenge. (Anyone willing to help out with a short term unsecured and interest waived or interest donated loan?)

This acquisition is a positive and commendable step by Township officials and the State, with the cooperation of International Paper, to preserve and protect an important local natural resource and prime recreation area from the development pressures so increasingly evident in the Keweenaw.

The Board unanimously approved the submitted Agreement

Board Waives Limit On Tax Revenue From New Construction State law limits the amount of tax revenue local governments can derive from increases in property values due to market forces or new construction. The allowed growth rate in tax revenue from these property value changes is set by the State at what the State determines to be the annual inflation rate. This presents a real challenge for local governments experiencing a lot of new construction, and the resulting need for expanded public services. So the State, in it's benevolent wisdom, allows local governments unfettered access to the tax revenue derived from new construction (only) if they first hold a "Truth-in-Taxation" public hearing, announcing their intent and allowing local taxpayers an opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter. Our Township Board, noting significant additions to the Township's "assessed" values due to "new construction" (notably the addition of YSI, the "for-profit" Youth Correction operation at the old Mt. Gratiot Air Force base to the tax role), conducted the required hearing after posting the appropriate notice.

Few understand the intricacies of State property tax law, and even after Township assessor Matt Arko patiently tried to explain the implications of a waiver, confusion reigned about the impact on millage rates and tax bills. The bottom line seems to be that a waiver would generate about $3,000 to $5,000 in additional General Fund revenue for the Township for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2001, and would not, in itself, increase the tax bill of current taxpayers. Given that, no objections were raised, and the Board happily approved the waiver. (Editor note. I don't pretend to fully understand all of this, so if anyone detects error in this report, please email me.)

Eagle Harbor South Water System Hookup AuthorizedInternational Paper, owner and developer of a 45 lot land subdivision located between the Cutoff Road and Lake Eliza, south (up the hill) from the town, requested permission to connect their recently installed watermains to the Township's water system. Supervisor Boggio presented a draft connection agreement negotiated with International Paper that grants permission to connect subject to several conditions. These include restricting development on the lots to single family homes, prohibition of the placement of trailers or other such temporary housing on the properties, prohibition of commercial use of the properties, prohibition of private wells and requiring home owners to connect to the public water system and pay all required connection fees and costs, and, the payment by International Paper of a system connect fee of $136,000.

Jim explained that the $136,000 connect fee was based on the approximately $2,000 each existing water system user has paid into the system's Construction Fund since the current system's installation about 10 years ago (the $50 per quarter "User Fee" added to our water bill). He noted that the $136,000 connect fee would allow 68 connects (@ $2,000 each), 45 in the new 45 lot subdivision and "credit" for 23 connects in future development projects. The location of these "future" lots was not specified, although someone mentioned "across the Cutoff Road".

Jim reported that the draft connect agreement had been reviewed and recommended by the Township's Water Board and consulting engineer, and was generally acceptable to the landowner/developer. He noted that additional negations should resolve the few remaining issues. He added that the 45 new connections would assist in generating water system revenues and would allow the system's future development and operation cost to be shared by a greater number of users.

I, and others, commended the draft agreement, but challenged the land development process. I noted that no subdivision plot or land division had yet been filed for public review and approval even though streets had been pushed in, lots had been staked, and watermains installed. I added that the use of the property for single family development made sense, but to my knowledge no provision had been made for the relocation of the snowmobile trail that now traverses the property and that no provisions seemed to be in place for the protection of the Lake Eliza and Eliza Creek shoreline that abuts many of the lots. Jim responded that the land owner had advised the Township of its intent to subdivide the property many months ago, and that the Township's consulting engineer had reviewed the watermain design and monitored it's installation. John Clarkson, Clerk, and the Township's designated reviewer of land divisions, noted that under Michigan law, overall land subdivision reviews were not required. He said he expected the division of the tract into the proposed 45 lots would be submitted and reviewed on a lot by lot basis.

After a spirited and beneficial discussion about the development process, and how to best share the existing and future water system development cost with new users, the Board finally had a chance to consider the matter at hand, the recommended preliminary connection agreement, and gave it approval without objection.

Other Stuff

Solid Waste Behavior Accolade. Solid Waste Committee Chair Bruce Olson reported that there had been little of the unlawful dumping of construction materials, household fixtures and appliances, old tires, etc at the Solid Waste site this summer (a major problem in past years), and commended all permanent and seasonal residents for their diligence and cooperation.

Water Use Down. Water System operator Rick Finke reported that water system usage was now at only a third of its peak summer rate.

Land Use Planning Process Meeting Scheduled. Keweenaw resident Anita Campbell, advised the Board and audience of a land use planning process presentation and discussion scheduled for 2:00 p.m., Saturday, September 23rd at the Mohawk School. She said the session was arranged by a group of citizens interested in learning more about how communities develop and utilize comprehensive land use plans. She said the discussion would have a countywide focus and urged Board members to participate.

Taxpayer Liability for County Zoning Decisions. A recent commentary in the Daily Mining Gazette by a former executive of Lake Superior Land Company alleging that County taxpayers would be exposed to big bucks liability judgements if Mt. Bohemia ski hill were not allowed, prompted the Township Board to ask Assessor Matt Arko for information as to how such a county liability would impact Township taxpayers.

Before Arko responded, Gordon Jaaskelainen, a County resident and long time area attorney politely chastised the Board for seemingly giving credence to the allegation by seeking Arko's views on how liability judgements are collected and what impact any such judgement might have on County taxpayers. Gordie said the allegations were a reprehensible attempt by ski resort proponents to intimidate and frighten County voters in the upcoming referendum by suggesting they might pay higher taxes if the ski resort was not approved. He said there was no chance of County liability in a matter such as this.

Arko said he was not qualified to comment on the liability potential, and simply noted that when and if public jurisdictions are judged liable for monetary damages, judges do have the authority to collect the funds through the levy of a special assessment against the jurisdiction's taxable properties. He estimated that a Court ordered judgement against the County could result in a levy of about 16.9 mills (or $16.90) per 1,000 of a property's taxable value for each million dollars of the judgement. (Editor note: I'm not sure I am accurately reporting Arko's estimate. My meeting notes are fuzzy. I'm trying to confirm. I'll correct when I hear from him.) He commented that such judgements are rare and noted a recent situation in Hancock where a school district was found liable for a school bus accident that resulted in an injury or death to a child, and the jurisdictions involved were considering recovery of the needed funds (I assume in excess of their insurance coverage.) through either special assessment or tax levies.

Mendota Lighthouse owner Gary Kohs, a supporter of the successful effort to subject the County Board's Lac La Belle zoning to public referendum, echoed Jaaskelainen's assessment of the motivation behind the Land Company executive's allegation. He read a letter from an attorney who had reviewed the County actions and decisions on the matter which concluded there was no chance of the County and its taxpayers being exposed to a successful liability claim.

Society of St. John Objects to Sharing Cost of Fire Truck. Assessor Mark Arko advised the Board that the Society was appealing to a statewide tribunal for relief from the special assessment recently assigned to all Township properties for funding the new fire truck. Arko noted that a State Attorney General's opinion specifically permitted special assessment levies on the properties of non-profits for police and fire protection services.


Return To Harbor Web

Return ToTownship News