By Jim Newell
LAKE ORION — A group of residents in the Village of Lake Orion have been circulating petitions to repeal the ordinance that funds the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.
Lake Orion resident Harry Stephens, a former member of the village council, is leading the petition drive.
The petition seeks to repeal village Ordinance 36.05. “This Ordinance approved a 4th amendment to the Tax Increment Financing Plan for the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority, originally approved in 1985, continuing their tax capture from the Village of Lake Orion and other effected Taxing Authorities until December 2039.”
The petition language reads: “Shall the Village of Lake Orion repeal Ordinance 36.05 and cease the capture of taxes from the Village of Lake Orion and other effected Taxing Authorities without terminating the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.”
The Lake Orion DDA captures taxes on properties within its district. The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plan sets the tax captures and is approved by the village council.
“(It) is the intent to drive to the village council, who has control of the entire set of circumstances for the DDA, to move forward. To do what is appropriate that the community wants to do. The DDA (board) is an appointed board, just as the planning commission is, just as the zoning board is,” Stephens said on Monday during the village planning commission meeting. “The only people who have the authority to do anything are the elected officials and that is the village council.”
Stephens and Councilmember Michael Lamb have been outspoken in their belief that taxes from new developments and on residential properties should go into village coffers to pay for things that all residents need, and not into DDA funds.
“Up until now, this has not been moved forward in any appropriate fashion. So, I consequently decided to run a petition to put this on the ballot following the rules of democracy to let the people make decisions about what should be going on,” Stephens said. “I’m not sure if the petition, if it does get to the ballot, will actually have the power to do it. But I think it would be a very strong word to the village council, who has the power to do these things, to do what the public wants.”
Village council President Ken Van Portfliet, who sits on the DDA Board of Directors and planning commission, took exception to Stephens’ comments and tried to rationalize the village’s delay in dealing with the DDA tax capture issues.
“I would like to, as a point of clarification, just inform the general public that there has been some direction made. There has been a committee appointed,” Van Portfliet said.
The DDA board voted to appoint three members to a joint committee at its June 14 meeting. The village council voted to appoint its three members at a council meeting after the DDA meeting with the intent that the committee would discuss the DDA’s tax captures and possibly come to a consensus on revenue sharing.
Their goal, Van Portfliet said, is to communicate with each other “and look for an alternative solution within the DDA and the village council to assist the community in their endeavors going forward at a different level.”
As of Monday, the committee had not met to discuss anything and does not have an agenda.
“So, that meeting has not taken place yet, but there has been some activity. It’s not just been, uh, ignored,” Van Portfliet said.
Lamb has spent the past eight months asking the village council to find ways to get the DDA tax captures from new development and on residential properties to go into the village’s general fund and not to the DDA.
“I assisted Mr. Stephens this weekend and we completed a petition drive,” Lamb said. “Mr. Stephens has promulgated a petition calling for the repeal of the TIF plan for the downtown development authority.”
Lamb estimates that they have 350 signatures from registered voters in the village, which needed to be turned into the village clerk on Tuesday.
The township clerk’s office would verify the signatures and then the petition would go to the county to be placed on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot, if everything is approved, Lamb said.
“What this would indeed do in the November election, it would allow the voters the opportunity to tell the downtown development authority that they would like the tax dollars from all of the new development and from the residential districts to go into the village general fund so that we can use it to pay for some of the stuff around here that we don’t have money for,” Lamb said.
Lamb says 50.8 percent of the DDA tax capture is on residential properties.
“It’s been brought to (the village) council and the community’s attention that all of these new development projects, all of the tax revenues – probably in excess of $500,000 – will all go into the coffers of the downtown development district, without any modifications (to the tax capture). To this date we have not got any input from the DDA in this direction, we have not gotten any direction from the village council, other than they formed a committee recently,” Lamb said.
Former village Manager Joe Young told the council the village had estimated more than $20 million in necessary infrastructure improvements, including phases three and four of the water main replacement project, street repairs, sewage lift stations and bridgework, over the next few years.
By Jim Newell