Special assessments approved along Shawano Avenue
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Despite the opposition from several Howard residents along Shawano Avenue who are unhappy about facing thousands of dollars in special assessments, those charges were approved Monday, April 22, on a majority vote by the village board.
Approximately 2,400 feet of water main is being extended on Shawano Avenue from Gaibrelle’s Gate northwest as part of the utility service and other improvements planned for 56 new single-family residential lots, 53 lots in the Howards Crossing subdivision and three others for the Reedy family.
Mike Kaster, director of engineering, said the water main assessments would affect 18 properties along Shawano Avenue, and 10 of those properties would be required to connect to municipal sewer and water.
The resolution authorizing the special assessments upon portions of Glendale Avenue, Shawano Avenue, Jerome Way and the plat of Howards Crossing includes a 10-year payment plan with an interest rate of 3.5 percent, a half-percent higher than the village’s borrowing rate.
Of the $2.48 million in costs, Kaster pointed out nearly $130,000, or 5 percent of the total, would be assessed to the residents along Shawano Avenue.
The assessments had been tabled by the board two weeks earlier over concerns about not all the affected property owners being properly notified for that meeting, so another public hearing took place Monday, April 22, when those property owners showed up to express their objections once again.
Justin Wolf, whose corner lot is already connected to municipal sewer and water, was back before the board to state he wouldn’t receive any benefit from being charged a special assessment for frontage along Shawano Avenue.
“My situation is unique,” Wolf said. “We’re already paying on our water and sewer. We’ve been doing that for the last two years while we’ve lived there.”
Kaster said a corner lot would receive a “reduced benefit,” and the village’s special assessment policy recognizes that with a credit for a corner lot.
“Our policy allows for up to 75 feet per side, which we’ve applied,” Kaster said. “The property in question has 122 feet of frontage, so the village is paying 75 feet of that, leaving a little over 47, 45 feet being paid by the property owner.”
Trustees Craig McAllister and Cathy Hughes backed a motion to exempt Wolf from more than $1,800 in special assessment charges.
McAllister said the installation of utilities should add value to property in the village before someone is charged for special assessments.
“The Wolfs are already hooked up, they’re already paying it, and to be honest, there’s really no added benefit to having water on both sides to them,” McAllister said.
Hughes said she has well water and wouldn’t consider getting village water as a benefit.
She said she hasn’t understood why village residents have to pay for special assessments related to utility installation sought by a developer.
“I still to this day don’t understand why all of us have to pay for this developer, and they make all kinds of money, and we have to pay for it,” Hughes said. “I just don’t understand it. There’s got to be a way – someway – that this doesn’t happen to people who live here.”
Village President Burt McIntyre said he had “mixed emotions” on the motion to waive the assessment, which he said would effectively be altering the policy the village operates under for special assessments.
“If this is approved… effectively it’s the board telling staff to change the ordinance, because in the future you couldn’t do it,” McIntyre said. “I mean, if you make exceptions here, then, to me, it’s only fair to make exceptions on every corner lot.”
The motion to waive the assessment for the Wolf property was defeated on a roll call vote with Trustee Scott Beyer joining McAllister and Hughes voting in favor.
McIntyre and trustees Chris Nielsen, John Muraski, Ray Suennen and Adam Lemorande opposed the motion.
Trustee Maria Lasecki abstained from voting because she said her husband owns a small business that contracts with the developer.
Water service hookup
Other Shawano Avenue residents who face the special assessments and will be required to hook up to the municipal sewer and water service spoke at the public hearing to object to those charges in addition to being billed in the future for water services when they currently have wells.
For instance, Amber Gumm said the $6,700 in special assessments her family faces would be a “big deal” to be able to afford having another child.
“Now all this money we have saved to have this kid is being taken away from us,” she said.
Though the resolution includes a 10-year payment plan at 3.5 percent, Kaster said the village’s special assessment policy allows for an extension of up to 20 years that the board could authorize.
Don Adler, whose property faces more than $6,000 in special assessments, said there would be no benefit to have to pay for municipal water when he already has a well.
“We’ve got water,” he said. “We’ve got very good water. We’ve got better water than what we’re going to get from Lake Michigan.”
Frances Burkel, a new resident on Shawano Avenue, said the property she purchased has a “relatively new well,” but now faces paying thousands of dollars she didn’t plan for with water main charges.
“I was excited about that (new well), and now I’m wondering if I can be excited anymore,” she said. “It’s changed my outlook on the property I just bought and the timing on what was done.”
For instances where septic systems and potable wells have been installed within the last five years of when property owners would be assessed for municipal sewer and water service, Kaster said the village’s special assessment policy makes those properties eligible for credits based on a five-year depreciation schedule, in which the amount of the credit would be reduced by 20 percent in each year after the septic and well installation.
“If (Frances Burkel) produces the documentation that’s required in our policy, we can then issue credits for that, based on that amortization schedule in our policy,” Kaster said.
Because the Reedy family is not a “typical developer” with the creation of the three lots the family is looking to sell that have special assessment costs of around $37,000 per lot, Kaster recommended a change the majority of board members approved to the family’s payment so that there would be no interest in the first three years to be able to pay off the lots as they would be sold.
“If they don’t sell it in three years, their costs are going to get higher, based on that interest (at 3.5 percent),” Kaster said.
Special assessment charges for Tycore Built LLC, developer for Howards Crossing, total more than $1.8 million.