Clare votes down Shamrock assessment roles

May 31, 2019

By Pat Maurer

Shamrock Lake residents will have to put up with the profusion of weeds in the lake for at least another year.

In a special meeting Wednesday evening, the Clare City Commission voted against approving an assessment roll of 100 Shamrock Lake property owners including property owners on the Tobacco River at the entrance to the lake.

The assessment of the property owners would have added funds to their taxes to pay for half the cost of a five-year weed control program in the lake.

At the last regular City Commission meeting the board had approved the roll, excluding river property owners, contingent on the opinion of City Attorney Jaynie Hoerauf.

In his agenda report at the special meeting, City Manager Ken Hibl said, “By adoption of its Resolution 2019-044, the City Commission initiated special assessment proceedings to continue the two-decade-long annual program of weed control for Lake Shamrock.”

The regular meeting, which included a Public Hearing on the matter, brought objections to the scope of the assessment roll from Tobacco River Resident Wayne Terpening, who requested that his property and the others on the river included in the roll be exempted from assessment for the weed control project.

The five-year program at a $30,000 cost each year would have been paid for with a 50-50 split, or $15,000 by the City and $15,000 by the assessed property owners. Each would have paid $150 per year for the weed treatment.

During the Public Hearing May 20th, Terpening said, “We are not part of the lake. We have objected to being assessed for the [weed] treatments for years, even submitted a petition to the City objecting. We do not have riparian rights to the lake, only to the river.”

With Commissioner Bob Bonham agreeing that river property owners without riparian rights to the lake should be excluded, the adoption of the assessment roll for the weed treatment process was approved by the board at that meeting without the river property owners included, pending the City attorney’s opinion.

Hoerauf said in her opinion letter to the board, “To determine whether parcels can be within the weed control Special Assessment District, whether the parcel has riparian right, is not in and of itself of any interest. What is of interest is whether the improvement directly benefits the parcel that the riparian rights (if any) attach to.”

She continued, citing instructional materials created by Joseph M. Turner on Special Assessments, “…the creation of a natural feature such as a lake has widespread influence on property values…Certainly maintaining the utility of a watercourse has positive impact on those properties that directly adjoin the lake.”

She wrote, “Parties are advised to document the amount a project adds to or detracts from the market value of the property…the petitioner has the burden of proof to show how the special assessment will not benefit their property.”

Hibl said in the special meeting agenda report Wednesday, “The City Attorney has reviewed the stated objection to the roll and has opined that riparian rights do not constitute grounds for removal of the river properties in question from the assessment roll. Consequently, the City Commission is asked to reconsider its decision and approve the assessment roll as originally submitted.”

In his recommendation at the special meeting Wednesday, Hibl said, “I recommend the City Commission approve the original assessment roll, which includes the riverfront properties…” citing the City attorney’s review of the matter.

Despite the City Manager’s recommendation, and after discussing the matter at the special meeting, the Commission “disapproved the weed control assessment,” and “deferred the project to next year.”

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