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The May 12, 1997 Township Board Meeting Report

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

All Board members and about 20 township residents gathered for the regular monthly meeting of the Township Board. It was a lively affair.

The rountine business of approving minutes, the treasurer's report, and paying bills was handled with the usual dispatch. Fund balances at the end of April, the first month of the new fiscal year, totalled $184,019, including about $48,000 in the Water Department fund, and $111,000 in the General Operating fund. Township revenues and expenditures are on track with the budget. The one notable exception was a payment of about $7.000 to replace an engine that blew out in the Township's main fire truck. That unexpected expenditure used up about half of the Volunteer Fire Department's annual budget.

The aging and what the volunteers believe to be inadequate fire equipment, prompted the department to once again urge the Board to place their request for a new fire truck on an election ballot for Township voters to consider this coming August. Chief Radigan told the Board that the department wanted to purchase a new pumper/tanker at an estimated cost of $150,000. It would carry 2500 gallons of water as compared to the 1000 gallons combined capacity of the department's two existing trucks. Mike said that the new truck could be successfully operated by three volunteers rather than the seven required for the existing trucks. With it, he added, the department would have a much better chance to douse a home fire before the home was destroyed. He said the department rcognized this would be a major expenditure for the Township and that the volunteers would work hard to explain the need and justification to Township voters and taxpayers.

Township Assessor Bob Taylor reported that a very preliminary discussion with an area banker suggested that the truck purchase could be financed with a 5 3/4% to 6% tax exempt loan (current rate on municipal bonds). On the basis of the Township's projected about $14 million taxable value, the loan repayment would require the levy of about 3 mills for 5 years, or alternatively, 2 mills for 8 years. He noted that the median taxable value for the current 103 voting taxpayer properties is about $32,000 (the average is $40,000), meaning an added annual tax bill for the median valued property of about $96 for a three mill, five year levy, or $64 for a two mill, eight year levy. (To estimate the annual impact on your property, multiply your taxable value, as shown on your tax statement, by 0.003 for three mills and 0.002 for two mills.) He added that the number of mills levied in the latter years of the multi-year levy might be reduced as the Township's taxable value grows through new development and property value increases. (It's interesting to note that on the basis of Bob's report, the 103 voting taxpayer properties represent about 4.2 million or just 30% of the Township's taxable valuation.)

Supervisor Jim Boggio asked the department to prepare the exact ballot proposal the department wanted to be placed before the voters for the Board to consider at it's June meeting. Clerk John Clarkson said that State law required the Board to specify the ballot proposal at least 49 days in advance of an election.If the Board did so at its June 9th meeting, the election could be held on or after July 28th. Jim noted that a special election would cost the Township from $700 to $1000.

At the request of Supervisor Boggio, the Township's consulting municipal engineer, Dick Supina, presented preliminary estimates for further improvements to the water system. The objective of the improvements was to better balance the water flow throughout the system and extend the new fire hydrant system into the center of the village. Two alternatives were presented. The first, and the one recommended by the engineer, would extend the 8" main from its present terminus at Sixth and Pine Street (the corner where Don Keith's home is located), east along Pine Street to M-26 (Shoreline corner), with another 8" main running north from Pine Street along Third Street to South Street (to the ballpark). The second alternative would install an 8" main along Center Street (the street the Township Fire Hall is located on) from the existing 8" main in 7th Street, east to M-26. Each alternative had an estimated cost of about $225,000, including 18 to 20 new water connections for adjacent properties, three or four hydrants, and street repaving. The improvements would be financed by system users (now 129), as was the case with past improvements. The current $50 per quarter surcharge for system improvements is due to expire in mid 1998. Engineer Supina noted that the prospects for a Federal grant to help pay for the additional improvements was currently not good. A Federal grant paid 75% of the cost of the last improvements, including the new well system. The Board referred the proposal to the Township Water Board for review and recommendation.

Engineer Supina also strongly recommended that the Township proceed with mapping the entire area served by the water system using the aerial mapping photographs taken when the previous water improvement project was undertaken. The recommeded mapping would provide location and contour information needed for future system improvements. He estimated the cost at $8,000 to $9,000. This proposal was also referred to the Water Board.

The Board discussed options for the hours of operation of the Township's solid waste disposal facility. The open hours were established at:

Saturday. 10 am to 2 pm

Sunday. 3 pm to 6 pm

Wednesday. 9 am to 12 noon

The hours would take affect Wednesday, May 14th and continue to mid October.

Gary Everest, the recently hired solid waste facility operator, was introduced. (Gary and his wife have purchased the Bear Paw gift shop on M-26. They and their four children are permanent residents. The children have swelled the ranks of the Copper Harbor school to nine. Gary is also a skilled electronic repair person...a lucky break for all of us!) Clerk John Clarkson said that Gary had been directed to check that persons using the solid waste facility have paid their annual solid waste disposal fee, and that after an initial warning, persons making unauthorized use of the facility would be referred to the County for prosecution. The fine will be $100. Supervisor Boggio said that signs would be posted at the site explaining use rules and the consequences of violation. He said the DNR was closely monitoring the Township's operation of the facility, and that if improper disposal was observed, such as the dumping of anything other than brush outside of the dumpster, the DNR would order the facility either shut down or improved at a substantial cost to Township taxpayers.

Supervisor Jim notified the Board that Bill Jackson had revised the lease document for Eagle Harbor Cable's use of a portion of the Solid Waste facility site and building in accordance with the Board's approval at the April meeting. The lease consideration would be $500 per year. Cable America would occupy a 9' x 24' section of the building (about 25%) for its equipment and install four or five satellite dishes along the north side of the site. All costs associated with the installation would be paid by Cable America.

The last item on the agenda was perhaps the most difficult. Neil Harri owns the vacant parcel adjacent to Eliza Creek, just south of the M-26 bridge and across from the beach. He wants to build a home on it and sought a setback variance from the County Zoning Ordinance that would allow him to locate the structure 15 feet, rather than the required 75', from the edge of the creek embankment. The County Board of Zoning Appeals had considered the request at it's last meeting, voted 2 yea, 2 nay, and continued the matter to it's June meeting when an absent fifth member would be present. They also asked the Township Board to express its opinion on the request.

Marilyn Marshall, who had attended the Board of Appeals meeting at the request of Supervisor Boggio, and Mary Beyers, who also attended, presented their observations of the Appeals meeting proceeding, and urged the Board to carefully consider the request, noting the substantial variance being requested and the Township's stake in protecting public waterways from unreasonable encroachment. Neil Harri said the County had authorized several such variances over the past several years and that his parcel would be unbuildable if a 75' setback from the creek were required.

Several in attendance spoke to the issue with the general theme that past development mistakes should not constitute grounds for new mistakes, and that the time had come for public officials to be more stringent in enforcing zoning provisions. Supervisor Boggio noted that the Township did not have a zoning ordinance, in part because of the substantial cost of developing and enforcing one, and that this was the first time in his memory when the County, which does have an ordinance, had sought the Township Board's opinion on a variance request. He noted the precedent that would be established if the Board became involved in County zoning and zoning variance issues. I injected that the County should be commended for seeking the Township's views on this request, that such Township involvement was long overdue, and that if it were to establish a precedent, that would be a good thing. (Editorial note: Certainly these issues are difficult, especially considering the history of development in the County and Township and the fact that old land subdivisions created clearly inadequate parcels for today's building types. Many of us occupy properties that were developed in a way that wouldn't make good sense today. Some degree of reasonable flexibility is necessary so that property owners can make use of their properties, but unreasonable use of land at the expense of adjacent owners and the general public interest can, and should, be matter how prevelant the practice has been in the past.)

To their credit, the Board accepted the challenge, and following a brief adjournment to inspect the Harri property, asked Neil Harri to better document his request, and passed a motion recommending to the Board of Appeals that a variance allowing a structure to within 20' of the creek embankment (15' had been requested) be approved. The motion also requested the Appeals Board to notify the Township of all variance requests within the Township. Motion supported by Boggio, Clarkson, Johnson and Keith. Trustee Van Pelt abstained, noting that some flexibility in regulating the development of the Harri property seemed justified, but that he was, as a matter of principle, opposed to granting variances for encroachmnt on public waterways.

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