November 11th's Special Joint Meeting of the Board of Trustees & Planning Commission went well for residents who value farmland and open space preservation. The "grow grow grow" contingent showed up with only 2 representatives. We had 27!

The reason for the small "growth party" showing is because they finally got the bill - the massive cost associated with their agenda – well in excess of $20M for sewer expansion, according to the engineer's report.

While the pro-growth members of the Board and Commission were busy wiping egg off their faces, the township engineer's presentation made clear that our sewerage treatment plant is completely incapable of handling Biltmore's proposal for 1,475 rooftops without major expansions and upgrades.

Stay tuned because this Biltmore fight is not over, unfortunately. Biltmore has not dropped their land options and there are still some Board & Commission members who want growth - any kind, anywhere and at any cost to the taxpayers.

This is exactly the type of situation where savvy developers take advantage of unsophisticated and unprepared township officials – and take us to the cleaners.

Officials learned that no one has any idea what our capacity is at the treatment plant. One would think this is basic information that Supervisor Marilyn Engstrom & Manager Howard Fink would need before advertising that Northfield Township is "Open for Growth" and "Under New Management", as they've been doing for the last two years.

Our engineering firm, TetraTech, reported that we may have capacity for somewhere between 100 & 1,900 new single family houses, in dry weather, maybe, but we just don't know. And in a wet weather event (rainfall of several inches in a short time), with the current number of household sewer taps, the treatment plant could overflow raw sewerage into Strawberry Lake, violating our permit.  (Read the Engineer's report here)

Our Township Attorney, Paul Burns, reported that due to the thicket of legal agreements surrounding the Northfield Township Wastewater Treatment Plant, which also handles effluent from Green Oak and Hamburg Townships, no one knows how much of the plant's current capacity belongs to Northfield township, let alone the future capacity resulting from expansion.  Whether capacity reserved and paid for in the North Territorial Road Special Assessment District or other SADs may be used elsewhere in the Township is also an open question. (Read some of the legal documents here)

So the Board decided this might be a good time to commission a study and get some basic facts. This may be on the agenda at the next Board meeting scheduled for Nov. 25.

What can you do now? Write them - insist they publicly support the Master Plan; oppose Biltmore's scheme to build suburbs in our rural neighborhoods, and say NO to sewer expansion.

- David Gordon


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The Sylvan Lake Township Sewerage Fiscal Fiasco

''In 2000 and 2001, Sylvan Township undertook a water/sewer project to support planned residential developments adjacent to the City (then Village) of Chelsea. The cost of the infrastructure would be paid by special assessments on the development. This did not happen, leaving the Township facing several lawsuits and substantial local debt a decade later.

Sylvan's new water and sewer systems faced several challenges, almost as soon as they were completed.  The planned-for developments did not occur, and the developers did not make payments to the Township for the special assessments. Meanwhile, additional development that had been expected outside of the special assessment district, which was expected to offset some of the developers' assessment charges via connection fees, also did not occur.

The Township's options by the end of 2010 included increasing local taxes to cover the costs of the bonds; offering a significant portion of the township (likely including the Chrysler Proving Grounds) to the City of Chelsea for annexation, in exchange for assumption or some or all of the debt; or, in the absence of any solution, a one-time 60 mill judgement levy to cover their default.

In August 2012, Township voters approved a 20-year, 4.4 mill property tax to pay off the debt. For reference, as of 2012, Sylvan Township's total budget was $463,500, with a total taxable value of $183 million, and a local property tax rate of 0.97 mills."


- from the Local Wiki