Lake Orion DDA supporters showed up en masse to spread their message to ‘Save the DDA’ on election day and in the weeks leading up to the election through ads, social media and signs placed around the village. Photo by Jim Newell.
Proposed ordinance to defund the Lake Orion DDA defeated at the polls
By Jim Newell
LAKE ORION — Lake Orion voters decisively turned down a proposed ordinance on Nov. 7 that would have replaced the ordinance that funds the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.
Voters were asked: Shall the Village of Lake Orion adopt Ordinance No. 36.06, which repeals Ordinance No. 36.05, and cease the capture of taxes from the Village of Lake Orion and other affected taxing authorities?
There were 776 votes cast, with 444 (57.22 percent) voting no and 332 (42.78 percent) voting yes. Of the 776 ballots cast, 369 were absentee, 384 people voted at the polls on election day and 23 people took part in the nine days of early voting.
The ballot proposal sought to repeal the Village of Lake Orion ordinance that established the DDA’s Tax Increment Financing District, last approved in 2020.
The issue was placed on the ballot after Lake Orion citizens initiated a grassroots effort and gathered enough signatures to have the proposal certified by the county elections division.
Those who supported repealing the ordinance and eliminating the tax capture argued that a large portion of the DDA’s tax capture is residential, and that those taxes should go to the village government to be used for all citizens in the village, and not for the DDA to spend in its district alone.
Proponents of the DDA say that the DDA is essential to the continued maintenance and development of downtown Lake Orion.
The vote is also a validation that the DDA is doing things that the community wants, DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone said.
“The results of the election means that the DDA can concentrate on doing the good works for the community, such as developing the lumber yard project. And we’re looking forward to getting down to business and getting that done,” said LaLone. “Fifty-seven percent is respectable. It’s enough of a margin that they can’t ask for a recount, they can’t say ‘Oh, that was a mistake.’ Certainly, definitely the public has spoken.”
Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett is on the DDA Board of Directors and felt that community involvement played a key role in the outcome.
“It was exciting to see the community engagement. I stayed behind the scenes, for the most part, unless people specifically asked my opinion. I think (the issue) was confusing, but I think people got educated. People might think 30 percent turnout is low, but for a special election with only one thing on the ballot, it was impressive to see the community come out and get educated on both sides of the ballot,” Barnett said.
“One thing that I did like is that for the two weeks prior to election day people were coming into the (DDA) office, or calling me, and were asking questions and asking for verification. I really appreciated that people were willing to come in and ask questions and ask for clarification on the things that they’ve heard,” LaLone said.
With many downtown Lake Orion business owners and community members rallying around the DDA in the weeks leading up to the election, LaLone said she was grateful for the support.
“The Save the DDA committee was fantastic. They worked so hard on behalf of the DDA and this community. We absolutely would not have had that vote (in the DDA’s favor) without their efforts to the public, and it was absolutely priceless,” LaLone said.
If the vote had been successful and the DDA TIF ordinance had been repealed, more than $400,000 that the DDA captures from other taxing authorities – such as NOTA, Oakland County, Oakland Community College and other millages levied in the DDA TIF district – would have been lost to Lake Orion and could no longer been reinvested in the downtown. A point that Save the DDA proponents focused on over and over leading up to the election.
“There still are people who I think, unfortunately, are telling residents that if the DDA goes away that all of the infrastructure woes of the village will be fixed and it just doesn’t play out. No one has ever shown the numbers. You can’t fix more things with less money,” Barnett said. “I’m happy. I think the residents got it right and the business owners came out and banded together. Hopefully, we can all move forward now.”
Barnett hope the issue is now behind them so that the DDA can move forward with its projects and community events.
“I hope it’s a new day. Hopefully people can say ‘Okay, we’ve debated the hell out of that issue. It’s been voted on, asked and answered, let’s move on to other stuff.’ I hope that’s the case,” Barnett said.