2017-05-18 / Front Page

Board approves tap-in fee grants for low income homes

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Up to 16 homes in a low income area of the township could have been eligible for free connection to the water system; beneficiaries of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds which are issued every three years.

After a great deal of debate, trustees decided for an option which would grant the connection on a first-come, first-served basis to a maximum of 10 homes (dependent on the results of contractor estimates).

The grant is for slightly more than $40,000, and would cover not only township tap-in fees, but county as well, leaving only a $413 cost to the homeowner for the meter and the meter reading system, as well as an approximately $100 monthly bill thereafter.

The limited number of homes was at least partly based on concern over potential loss of revenue which funds water infrastructure, had the capital fees been waived as initially requested by Department of Public Works Director (DPW) Jeff Sears. Instead, the option of paying both county and township fees with the grant means fewer homes will receive the benefit.

Letters, including water rates and other information will be sent out to 119 homes in an area on the east side of Fenton Road south of Maple Road. Water mains in this area were previously installed using CDBG funds. These grants have very strict requirements, one of which is use in a low income area. The grants are overseen and approved on a case by case basis by Genesee County. The homes are currently on private wells, according to Sears.

There were concerns expressed about whether the residents who sign up would be home-owners or renters, but on advice of the Township Attorney David Lattie, the board chose to accept only the CDBG criteria of income and order served, to make the decision as fair as possible.

“The more you deviate from the CDBG rule the more difficult it will be….you don’t want to be in the position of analyzing a moral benefit. It’s not a perfect solution but as fair as you can get,” Lattie explained.

Sears and Supervisor Scott Bennett also said they felt improvement in the resident’s water supply and subsequent overall health, was a good thing for the township. Trustee Al Mansour expressed concerns about the residents’ ability to pay for the water and that the township was not resolving an active problem.

Other CDBG projects for the 3-year cycle will be decided later by the board following a public hearing. Residents are welcome to submit suggestions and should contact Clerk Cathy Lane for more information.

In other business, a close 4-3 vote passed the conditional re-zoning as recommended for approval by the Planning Commission for a cellular service tower to be installed at 5081 S. Genesee Rd. The rezoning was originally requested for the whole parcel, 50-acres, and was cut down to 3-acres.

The issue was complex and multi-layered, partly due to what Lattie called an ‘anomaly’ in the zoning ordinance which doesn’t allow such towers within 500 feet of a residential area—and approximately 80 percent of the township is zoned residential.

Other considerations were that a smaller tower or co-locating on an existing tower wouldn’t meet the need as said by Verizon and could just create a situation where more towers than what was requested would need to be built.

Township officials are also hindered by Federal Communications Commission rules which state what they can and cannot consider when approving these applications. Township officials also approved a 120-day moratorium on zoning applications or building permits in the proposed Technology Village area, to allow for consideration and adoption of the proposed zoning regulations which were just received from planning consultants Giffels-Webster.

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