Above, from left: Lake Columbia’s Heather Carroll, Chrissy Losey, and Liz Satin stand on Abbott Road in a Lake Columbia subdivision. Note behind them and to the left the road has worn down to pure gravel in spots over the many years since the road was last paved. The three are among the organizers to get petitions signed for a special assessment district to fix a majority of Lake Columbia’s roads.
By John Hummer
A large citizen-led effort is underway to create a special assessment district to have the roads in the subdivisions around Lake Columbia fixed.
Chrissy Losey, who lives in the Bayview Shores subdivision of Lake Columbia, is leading the charge with the help of several squad leads around the lake’s subdivisions. There are currently squad leads for 10 of the 14 subdivisions around the lake.
“We’ve somehow come together just by word-of-mouth, sharing with our neighbors, sharing with each other, calling up our friends and asking who would like to help,” Losey said. “We’re trying our best to spread the word.”
She said after this past winter the roads around the lake seemed to be in the worst shape ever, with lots of deep potholes. “Everybody was calling Jackson County (Department of Transportation), including my husband, once a week telling them where to come to fill the potholes,” she noted. “They would come, but the stuff doesn’t stay in the holes – it doesn’t last very long. People were swerving to the point where they were driving into other people’s yards. It got really bad.”
Heather Carroll, who is the squad lead for the Sherwood subdivision across from Columbia Central Junior-Senior High School, said she hit a deep pothole that ruined her suspension. “I had to pay $600 for a new suspension,” she said. “There were 42 potholes – the deepest one was 18 inches. It was like driving around in a war zone.”
Heather Carroll placed her foot inside a bad pothole with loose chunks of pavement on Nottingham Drive to show how deep the pothole is. (It’s hard to convey the depth perception of it.)
Losey said JCDOT was in the Lake Columbia area around six weeks ago and filled all the potholes. “It won’t take long before they’re empty again and they gradually get deeper,” she stated. “They’re damaging the cars – it’s become a safety hazard for drivers. We have a lot of curves where you can’t see the oncoming traffic.”
Liz Satin is the squad lead for the Southern Shores subdivision. “It’s very bad – I have to swerve to miss all the potholes and there have been chunks of asphalt that have flown into my yard – I’ve got to pick them up before I mow,” she said, adding, “I know one of our neighbors has fallen when they were walking their dog. We have a lot of people walking babies in strollers – so that’s dangerous. There are no sidewalks; we have to use the roads.”
Added Losey, “In the nice weather, everyone wants to be outside – it’s the perfect place to walk and run and bike. We see whole families where there’s one kid in a stroller and two kids on bikes, dad’s got the dog and the whole crew is going down the street.” With cars going around them potentially hitting a pothole or a chunk of loose pavement, it presents a hazardous situation.
Losey spoke in the public comment period during the May 15 Columbia Township board meeting to apprise the board of her group’s efforts and progress to date. She also presented their effort to the Lake Columbia Property Owners Association at their annual membership meeting on May 21 as well as at their April 24 board meeting.
“Our roads are over 40 years old and have significantly deteriorated,” Losey stated at the township board meeting. She is well aware and made it clear that Governor Whitmer’s campaign slogan of “Fix the damn roads!” does not apply to local roads such as those around Lake Columbia.
“Our county road funding comes from the gas tax and vehicle registration fees – not our income or property taxes,” she said. “Our road funds have been decreasing for the past 10 years due to increasing numbers of people working at home and the numbers of electric vehicles.”
Losey also noted that paving material costs are also increasing at eight to 10 percent per year. Grants are not available for local roads except where there have been safety related fatalities, for safety related improvements, but not for paving, she said, referring to a presentation by the Jackson County Department of Transportation on the Columbia Township website by JCDOT project manager Jim Cole.
Losey said that through the current special assessment district process in Michigan legislation, the county would pay 30 percent of the cost. The remaining 70 percent (averaging about $4-5k per lot around Lake Columbia – there are about 2,300 lots in the Lake Columbia community) would be assessed to the property owners on their winter tax bills. She noted that Lake Columbia residents have been paying on a similar SAD for their sewers, which ends this year.
“Our area realtors say that paving will increase our property values by more than this cost,” she stated, adding that it would help them as realtors from a salability standpoint. “Paving will also provide a significant improvement in safety for vehicles, bikers, and walkers.”
Losey noted that Archwood Circle has already been re-paved through its own SAD and some residents on Garrison Drive began a SAD effort earlier this year (which could end up being rolled into the overall Lake Columbia effort). Other roads that may have current SADs or were repaired in recent years via a SAD could be excluded from the new lake-wide SAD. “There are many other SADs in our township, and our village (Brooklyn) funds their own roads, so no township road millage is being considered,” she said.
Losey continued, “This is not a LCPOA initiative since the roads are owned by the county. LCPOA’s authority is the same as for all other parcel owners, for its 16 association-owned parks – to pay the parking lot assessments as their road fronts are approved.”
Chrissy Losey, citizen coordinator of the Lake Columbia roads special assessment district, points to just one of many potholes to be found throughout Lake Columbia’s roads.
So where does the Lake Columbia SAD effort stand right now? Losey stated that they have submitted their intent to petition to Columbia Township from the 10 LCPOA shore subdivisions that have joined the effort, which comprises about 80 percent of the roads (or 1,800 lots) surrounding Lake Columbia. The remaining four could be added later if interest is expressed and residents step up to be squad leads.
The group is also awaiting Columbia Township to publish their special assessment district rules from their recently hired legal firm that has specialized experience in special assessment districts. “There’s more than one way to do a [SAD] – they haven’t told us which way – I expect that will be at the June board meeting,” Losey noted, adding that the attorney will be looking for the fairest way to recommend the SAD when there are multiple uses and multiple conditions, such as property owners who own more than one lot on a street.
They are also waiting for JCDOT to do a road cost analysis in order to complete and circulate their petitions with accurate cost detail. “They’ll give us a written document that tells us what the cost is going to be,” Losey noted. “They come through with equipment that first grinds this all up; they add tar and asphalt to it to create a new base. Then after that they put three inches of new asphalt on top of that.
“We expect to be petitioning by July for the road special assessment district, with roads to be paved in the next two years (2024 and 2025),” Losey said, adding that it could even be a three-year project, if in fact it does end up being a whole-lake project.
“Paving our roads will not get done any other way,” she says. “We have 2,300 lots on our roads around the lake. It is a huge effort, but well worth it to improve our safety and property values. The JCDOT project manager wants to use the JCDOT paving crew to do the best quality work here and showcase this project. We need your help to make this happen.”
If a Lake Columbia resident is interested in helping with the effort, Losey requests that they contact their shore road squad lead. For further information, or questions about volunteering to help, contact Losey at email@example.com
Lake Columbia road squad leads:
West lake side
Bayview Shores, Castlewood, and Imperial – Chrissy Losey
Royal Shores and Blakely – John Niehaus.
East lake side
Holiday 2 and Hill-n-Shore – Scott Rogers
Sherwood Shores – Heather Carroll
Riviera 1&2 – Stacey and Rob DeAngelis
Southern Shores – Liz Satin.
There are four shore subdivisions not participating as of yet, only because no one has volunteered to lead their petition: Cambridge, Fletcher, Grand Pointe, and Holiday 1.