“Setting Up Special Assessment Districts
For Lake Management in Michigan Townships”
Lake Associations and riparian property owners have sometimes experienced frustration when attempting to implement lake management programs. Often, in the case of voluntary associations, problems arise when property owners refuse to join or fail to contribute their fair share to the funding. Also, it is normally not possible to force 100% participation through the association itself. These obstacles can severely limit the effectiveness of lake management programs. Nevertheless, there are statutes in Michigan which permit the creation of a Special Assessment District covering the entire lake involved through the local municipality (i.e., city, village, or township).
The first step in setting up a Special Assessment District is to obtain signatures of property owners in favor of lake management improvements or approved petitions. Once the signatures are obtained from property owners’ representing 51% or more of the land area, the petition is presented to the municipality. Thereafter, public hearings are conducted (usually two) in order for the municipality to hear property owners’ opinions, decide whether to proceed with a special assessment, and determine the monetary assessment per property owner. Notice must be given in a local publication and by mailing a notice to property owners in a proposed assessment area prior to each public hearing.
Once the Special Assessment District is set up and enacted, the local municipality (usually in consultation with the lake association or riparian property owners) will contract the lake management program, with the cost put on the tax rolls for all benefited properties. The participation is 100%, since each property owner within the special assessment district (usually, all properties abutting a lake, and in some cases, including access properties) will have a share of the cost appear on his/her tax bill. Since the cost is on everybody’s tax bill, payment is mandatory.
The cost per lot for lake management pursuant to a special assessment district varies. Typically, such costs range from $100 to $250 per lot per year. This figure can vary, however, depending on the nature of the plant management program (e.g., the type(s) of herbicides used), the size of the lake, how long the special assessment district is set up for and other factors.