Traverse City News and Events

Drains Debate In The Neighborhoods

Jan. 7, 2016

A Grand Traverse County plan to create five drainage districts has led to pushback from homeowner groups.

Under the county’s plan, homeowners who fall within the proposed districts would pay a portion of the cost to construct and maintain the drains.

The county plans to create new drains and districts in Braemar Estates, Cedar Hills, Logan Hills and River Meadow neighborhoods and also repair a drain near Cass Road. Petitions to create the drainage districts - a requirement for the process - were initiated by the county road commission.

The districts are planned for “certain areas in the county where flooding is affecting our roadways and the right-of-way, and is creating hazardous conditions for the traveling public,” says Jim Cook, county road commission manager.

Jonathan Campbell, president of the Logan Hills Homeowners Association, asserts that the districts are a mechanism for the county to pay for previously neglected drains.

But Cook insists otherwise. “Some people think this is a money grab by the road commision and it just isn’t,” he says. “We’re going to pay just like everyone else.”

In response to the county’s plan, homeowners in Logan Hills and Maple Terrace, as well as in Bernmar Estates and Old Mission Estates, hired engineers in an attempt to create their own private solutions. Under their plans, special assessment districts would be created, payed for directly by homeowners and policed by Peninsula Township. 

Both homeowner groups say their solutions will be more cost effective for managing drainage issues in their neighborhoods while eliminating municipal bureaucracy.

Grand Traverse County Drain Commissioner Kevin McElyea raises several issues with a private solution, including the need for easements, ongoing maintenance and enforcement of new drains, and overall cost.

“Everybody’s concerned that I’ve got this open checkbook and it’s going to be huge and expensive and they really need to get the facts,” says McElyea. “If you really objectively put the pros and cons of both out, you see how it weighs out.”

Joseph Quandt, legal representative for Bernmar Estates and Old Mission Estates, weighs in on behalf of his neighborhood group clients. “Why is it that they’re insisting upon a [drainage district] when you have a community-driven initiative by the people who are most affected by the problem and are willing to fix the problem?”

Both groups of homeowners plan to present their private proposals at the road commission's annual planning meeting tonight (Thursday).

Despite harsh allegations of misinformation, backroom deals and nepotism from both sides, all parties remain optimistic.

“We’re not excited about how we got here, but it does look like everybody is working together to try and find a solution” says Quandt. “We’re hopeful that common sense will prevail, and that people won’t insist on a governmental solution to a problem that is easily managed by the community.”

Cook and McElyea say the county would be open to a private solution if it met their criteria and absolved their departments of risk.

The county attempted to create the drainage districts last year, but he process was abandoned following a lawsuit brought by Peninsula and Long Lake Townships over alleged procedural errors.

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