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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How will the assessment be apportioned to property owners?
    Lake level special assessments are based on the benefits of the lake level to the property, not the owner or the taxable value of the property. This means we will calculate the cost of a lake level project then assign a percent of that cost to each parcel within the special assessment district. The benefit methodology could include factors such as public use, front vs backlot, state-owned land, etc.
  • Will the assessment methodology consider if a parcel is developed?
    Generally, whether a parcel is developed or undeveloped has no merit for the assessment methodology because the property owner could choose to build on it one day. Sometimes exceptions are made for parcels designated as wetlands or that are prohibited from being developed.
  • Many people use these lakes. How come the assessment is only levied against property owners?
    A lake level special assessment only applies to the parcels that benefit from the body of water – not the people. This prevents the entire state or county from receiving an assessment. If a county chooses, they could pay for some or all of the costs with general fund monies but that’s up to the county commissioners.
  • How often will an assessment appear on our winter tax bill?
    The only time there will be an assessment is when costs are incurred for the lake level. Costs will vary from year to year and so will assessments. There may also be years when no assessment is necessary. After the main project is constructed and paid for, we don’t anticipate significant annual costs for many years afterward.
  • Why are road ends not included in the SAD?
    The township manages road ends which will be considered when determining the township’s assessment.
  • What is a legal lake level?
    Michigan law allows a County Board of Commissioners to establish “normal levels” (also commonly referred to as “legal levels” or “court-ordered lake levels”) on inland lakes through circuit court proceedings. A February 24, 1982 order of the Roscommon County Circuit Court set Houghton Lake’s normal levels at 1,138.1 feet above mean sea level for summer and 1,137.6 feet for winter. Because the Court set legal lake levels for Houghton Lake, Roscommon County has an obligation to maintain those levels by repairing and improving lake level infrastructure (e.g., the dam).
  • What is Part 307?
    Part 307, Inland Lake Levels, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Pa 451, is the legal framework for establishing and maintaining inland lake levels.
  • Why did the County establish lake level special assessment districts?
    The statute that governs established inland lake levels outlines a process to pay for lake level infrastructure operation and maintenance costs by special assessments (Michigan Compiled Law 324.30714). The same statute notes that a circuit court’s lake level order must confirm the boundaries of any special assessment district (MCL 324.30707(5). A court order did not establish a special assessment district boundary to authorize assessments to maintain lake level infrastructure for any of the three lakes. To ensure that the County can maintain the lakes' required lake levels, special assessment districts were established to provide a funding mechanism for the infrastructure. Many inland lakes throughout Michigan with legal lake levels have corresponding lake level special assessment districts.
  • Who is in the lake level special assessment districts?
    A lake level special assessment district can generally only include properties that “benefit” from a lake level. Accordingly, it is the County’s intent to include properties that can access each lake. These include lakefront properties and those that may have “deeded access.”
  • How did the County establish a lake level special assessment district?
    Establishing a lake level special assessment district requires the County to amend the historical lake level order to include a district. It completed this by filing a petition in the Roscommon County Circuit Court. All property owners within a proposed special assessment district received a mailing notice informing them of the court hearing to consider amending the lake level order for a special assessment district.
  • Will the court hearing to consider establishing a lake level special assessment district determine how much I will pay in assessments?
    No. State law only allows a court to determine the properties that can be assessed (or otherwise are in the district). Determinations as to how much any assessments will be or apportionments for assessments are determined at a future public hearing and ultimately must also be approved by the County Board of Commissioners.
  • Did the public get to vote on this?
    State law does not give the public the ability to vote on lake level assessments or establishing a lake level special assessment district. Yet, it offers various opportunities for public comment and input. The County must balance interests from various stakeholders (such as lakefront and backlots) in this process, but encourages public comment to help it come to the best proposal for any assessments or assessment district.
  • Is a lake level special assessment district the same as the weed treatment special assessment district?
    No. Different state laws require separate special assessment districts for certain lake improvements. A separate state law and assessment process governs weed treatments.
  • When would I know my proposed lake level assessment amount?
    This would occur after the court hearing at a future public meeting (those subject to potential assessments would receive mailing notice). The County cannot estimate assessments prior to a district being created as it will not know how many properties will be in the district which is necessary to determine how costs will be spread.
  • The public uses these lakes (e.g., through DNR land). How will they pay their fair share for any assessments?
    State law authorizes the County to assess DNR properties for use of the lake as well as to assess the County and/or other public entities like townships at-large for lake level projects. These assessments typically relate to the public’s use of a lake. However, please note, that these assessment determinations must occur after a court hearing to establish a special assessment district.
  • How will the County consider affordability of lake level assessments?
    Although lake level infrastructure is extremely important and must be adequately maintained, it is also important to balance the affordability of any projects and potential assessments. The lake level statute allows a County to finance lake level projects and spread assessments over a variety of years to make annual payments manageable for those within a special assessment district.
  • How can I contact the County if a property with lake access is not located in the proposed district or if a property has been included in the proposed district without access to the lake?
    You can contact the County to let it know of any properties it needs to add or remove from the proposed district. Please specify the property that is in question and why you believe it should be removed or added to the district. The County will investigate any properties submitted to it to determine whether they should be in the district on or not.
  • How can I ask additional questions about this?
    Please fill out the form on our contact page.
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