Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 7, 2003

The buzz of annexation in HL

By Lynda Jensen

Talk of annexation is buzzing around Howard Lake, brought on by two proposed development projects north and south of town.

The projects are a taste of what will come, if a forecast of explosive growth that is following a ring of cities outside the metro area comes true.

The growth is bringing a mixed reaction from the community.

Mayor Gerry Smith hails the new developments as strong growth for the city, bringing patrons and more dollars into the economy, as well as different types of needed housing for new residents.

In turn, township residents have been critical of the projects, seeing them as intrusions to their quiet lives.

The city has also been scrutinized for its casual treatment of the two projects coming into Howard Lake in relation to the townships.

The city council approved a draft of its official stance on orderly annexation Tuesday, with another separate ordinance on the agenda being tabled that is related to Woodland Development.

City Administrator Kelly Bahn made it very clear that the city is not looking to take existing homes on the subject of annexation.

"The city council has no intentions of taking existing homes," she said.

Meetings with township officials

The city continued a series of meetings with township officials after its Tuesday meeting.

In the past, the city has had several meetings related to annexation and development projects, including a hearing on annexation Feb. 10, a hearing for preliminary plat March 11, another hearing March 18, as well as unofficial meetings with township officials, and an open house that was hosted by Woodland Development in February.

Mayor Gerry Smith and Bahn met with Greg Bakeberg from Victor Wednesday, as well as Virgil Birkholz and Bob Berg of Middleville in separate meetings.

Following these meetings, the city set two meetings.

One is a workshop set for today (Monday) at 8 p.m., with Middleville Township at the township hall.

The second meeting will be at Victor Township hall, with Smith and Bahn presenting information to Victor township residents at its regular meeting Monday, April 14 at 8 p.m.

The city has given notice to all the adjacent residents in the township ­ in fact more than they are required to do by law, said City Administrator Kelly Bahn.

There are two kinds of annexation

There are two different kinds of annexation, smaller tracts of land done by city ordinance, and broad range annexation done over a period of time, according to an orderly annexation agreement between the city and township.

The ordinance version generally involves tracts of land less than 60 acres and does not require the blessing of townships for it to occur. Land must abut to city limits.

An example of annexation by ordinance is the Woodland development, to be located west of the golf course, will likely add 191 single family homes to the area, if all goes according to plan.

This project does not involve existing homes ­ and subsequent tax revenue that accompany such, Bahn said. It is being proposed as part of the orderly annexation agreement, she said.

Woodland Development also exceeds the 60 acre limit, being 94 acres altogether, but was broken into to pieces by the developer. This was approved by the state.

The city tabled this ordinance Tuesday.

On the other end of the spectrum is orderly annexation, which is wide reaching, and usually pertains to more than one project at a time.

Generally, the city and township agree to terms related to property taxes, since annexation presents a big loss of revenue for townships in the form of taxes.

An example of orderly annexation is the Victor Township development to be called Village Park, located southwest of the city.

Orderly annexation would be best for this project, since it does not abut city land, but could be annexed via the road, Bahn said.

City OKs draft

A draft of the city's stance on orderly annexation was adopted Tuesday.

The draft sets a maximum of 120 acres per year for annexation for a period of 10 years, and makes an agreement with the townships for trading off property taxes during a transition period, if this is accepted by the respective townships.

Under the agreement, the city offered the following tax schedule for improved properties:

· in the first year following the year Howard Lake could first levy on the annexed area, an amount equal to 90 percent of the taxes will be made payable to the township,

· in the second year, an amount equal to 70 percent,

· in the third year, an amount equal to 50 percent,

· in the fourth year, an amount equal to 30 percent,

· and in the fifth year, an amount equal to 10 percent.

"It could still change," Bahn commented, saying it was a working document that the city can take to townships.

The acre limit was debated during the council meeting.

Council Member Terry Ostgulen suggested 40 acres of land for every three years, a number received as very low by other council members.

Bahn pointed out that orderly annexation was supposed to keep the city from going back to the township, continually asking for more land, and that most projects exceed 40 acres, such as the two that are being planned now.

She suggested 80 acres maximum every year. Smith suggested 100 or 120 acres.

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