Lakefront neighborhood campaigns for SADs

Special assessment districts considered to improve neighborhood roads

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published August 5, 2022

 Venetian Drive is one of the streets in the Huron Pointe neighborhood that could be redone through a special assessment district.

Venetian Drive is one of the streets in the Huron Pointe neighborhood that could be redone through a special assessment district.

Photo by Dean Vaglia

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — No driver has ever found themselves cheering as the orange cones and barrels come out for the summer, but road construction is simply an inevitable part of living in Michigan.

Whole journeys are upended by the mere presence of the high-visibility barriers and the workers beyond them, but these inconveniences today are the result of governments paying the lowest-bidding contractors to make the silky-smooth roads of tomorrow.

But what happens when the authority over a road is unclear when the time for repairs has come?

“(Road builders) gave us about a 15-year life expectancy for it, and we’ve far surpassed that up to 30, 35 years,” Dean Parent, Huron Pointe Homeowner’s Association vice president, said. “The roads are definitely in need of being taken care of.”

Believing the work must be done, the eastern Harrison Township group of homeowners is seeking approval for a series of special assessment districts, or SADs, to improve roads within the neighborhood.

“(A SAD is) an area created to fund an improvement within that district with the cost of that district borne by those who benefit from the project,” Adam Wit, Harrison Township clerk, said.

The SAD process begins with a resident-directed signature-gathering process within the proposed district. At least 51% of affected properties in the district must agree to the SAD in order for the township to begin its part of the process, which involves the Board of Trustees holding two public hearings before voting on whether to approve the district.

“It’s really a local-controlled democracy kind of situation where the majority decides how they want to address the issue,” Wit said.

The association is aiming for three SADs to cover the three zones: Zone One (Lakeshore Drive and connected streets), Zone Two (East and West Archer drives and connected streets) and Zone Three (Venetian Drive). While the first two zones will be able to split the cost of road work between both sides of the road — estimated to be $11,737 and $11,730 per home — residents on the single-developed side of Venetian Drive will be expected to pay $22,849 per house. Residents have an option to pay off their bill up front or to pay it in installments across winter tax bills.

Members of the homeowners association have been going around the area looking for signatures, though things are not going as planned.

Opposition to the SADs has taken several forms. Not all of the roads look to be in bad shape, which some residents argue means there is no need to do the work. Some people simply do not or cannot spend the money to repair the roads. Other residents cite cost increases from a pre-pandemic repair estimate as a reason to not support the SADs.

“What we did back in 2018 … we had a survey we put out,” Parent said. “We polled pretty much everybody that we could, and I believe got 60%-65% of the people at that time that said they were in favor of doing the roads over again. Granted, the price base we were quoted at that time was significantly lower than where we’re at now.”

As of mid-July, none of the zones have reached the minimum threshold for approval, with Zone One at 34%, Zone Two at 14% and Zone Three at 32%. The homeowners association would like to get the required signatures in by September to apply for grants, but the signature drive will not stop if the grant deadline is not met.

“I’m doing everything I can,” Parent said. “A couple board members have been going out. We have two or three other volunteers that live in the neighborhood that were very beneficial for us to go out collecting signatures.”

Should the signatures come in on time, Parent believes the road work would begin next year.