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Residents raise questions regarding watering ordinance in Macomb Township

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published September 18, 2019

 Since Macomb Township’s watering ordinance changed in July, some residents have questioned how it will be enforced and believe there is a lack of recourse.

Since Macomb Township’s watering ordinance changed in July, some residents have questioned how it will be enforced and believe there is a lack of recourse.

File photo by Alex Szwarc

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — In July, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a change to the watering ordinance.

Since then, residents have had plenty to say about it.

What changed with the ordinance is that watering violations are now civil infractions in Macomb Township. The penalty formerly was a misdemeanor.

Macomb Township’s watering ordinance states that from May to October, automatic lawn and/or landscaping irrigation is prohibited between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Macomb Township Water and Sewer Superintendent Gerry Wangelin said over the last month, he and his department haven’t heard too much in the way of residents’ comments.

“We’re trying to focus and do this for all the right reasons,” he said. “We don’t hear too much about it.”

Township officials believed the ordinance needed to be amended in an effort to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and provide for decreases in maximum water usage at peak hours in order to achieve a better water rate.

Macomb Township resident Lori, who didn’t provide her last name, in August said her water system was off, when a neighbor reported her water usage to the township.

“My whole concern is there’s no recourse,” she said.

Wangelin said the township physically sends a copy of the ordinance by mail to those who violate the ordinance as a warning.

Lori said a notice left at her home said a water department employee was at the home, but when contacted, the department said she couldn’t have violated the ordinance because the water wasn’t on.

“He said he wasn’t there, but somebody else reported it,” Lori said. “The township is going off of what somebody reported in the neighborhood. My concern is, what if you have a neighbor you don’t like? What we’re doing now is taking a photo of the water meter every morning when we leave, and every morning when we come back. That’s insane. We shouldn’t have to prove that we’re innocent.”

The neighbor complaint happened in July.

“We’re new to the area and didn’t know there was a watering ordinance. We’re from the south,” Lori said. “It was infuriating to me that somebody reported it. There’s no recourse other than you’re guilty until proven innocent, and now we have to take pictures of our water meter everyday.”

Since the July change, Wangelin said the amount of warnings handed out has remained steady.

“For a while, we were doing 10-12 letters a day,” he said. “Now that it’s late summer and the weather cooled off, the number has dwindled.”

Macomb Township resident Mike, who requested his last name not be printed, lives near Valley Forge subdivision, north of 21 Mile Road, between Garfield and Romeo Plank roads.

“What frustrates me is the blatant over-watering,” he said. “If they had somebody out, all you have to do is give notice to one or two people and the word gets around, then everybody starts paying attention.”

He was wondering if the water department has an enforcement branch.

Wangelin’s response to that was enforcement will be done through the code enforcement division of the building department.

Mike said he’s amazed at how many people water their lawns until 8 or 9 in the morning.

“I moved up here from Maryland and they had water restrictions and guys that were out,” he said. “If somebody in your block or development got stopped by them, everybody knew it. If nobody’s going to enforce it, nobody’s going to pay attention to it. That’s the shame of it.”

He doesn’t think anything will be accomplished by the township changing the ordinance.

Wangelin said two notices are sent out to homeowners, and if there is a third violation, either himself or his assistant will visit the home.

A violation of the watering ordinance is a fine between $100 and $500. Wangelin said money collected from fines goes toward the water and sewer fund.