Georgetown Sewer Interceptor Payback District -
History & Implications

The Township planned, in 1975, a set of public utilities (water and sewer) that would serve the entire Township, out to Meridian Road; that map is still in the system. The Township subsequently established an urban services boundary to limit growth of utilities to the west side of the township, to preserve the eastern half as rural. A later Board in the early 1990s rescinded the urban services boundary and approved a payback district in 1993 for a particular developer to develop much of the Township from Grand River north and Cornell Road east to Meridian road. This payback district is still in effect; it obliges the township to pay a per-hookup reimbursement to that developer should they develop this area. The Mud Lake lift station was built with extra capacity anticipating this future need. In addition, the first portion of the Georgetown development (East of Central Park Rd) has an extra-deep and larger diameter sewer (required by the Township) to, again, anticipate future eastward development. The developer was granted a payback district for this (Georgetown Sewer Interceptor Payback District).

In more recent times, the Board adopted a Smart Growth policy and made efforts to focus on infill development. The Township has been actively involved in establishing a Tri-County Urban Services management area for about the past decade. In the 2010 revision to the Master Plan, the Planning Commission recommended establishment of the Urban Services Boundary along a line fairly similar to the original line, using a set of criteria developed by the Tri County Regional Planning Commission. The Planning Commission also developed a set of criteria for evaluating the positioning of the Boundary incorporating the recommendations of the Tri County Regional Planning Commission and a process for evaluating future possible amendments to the Urban Services Management Area. The policy and amendment process were adopted by the Board. The Board has since returned the recommendation to the Planning Commission twice, each time with more of the Eastern portion of the Township within the Urban Services Management Area.

In the most recent revision they reversed the Planning Commission's recommendation and exempted the Georgetown Sewer Payback District from the rules that regulate sewer extensions into the rural portions of the township. In other words, the effective urban services boundary will be along Meridian Road – essentially opening the entire Township to development which, under even the most optimistic economic assumptions, will be sprawl. The rationale for this decision appears to be that the Township would be liable for loss of paybacks to the developer of the Georgetown subdivision if sewers were not allowed to extend into the payback district. (The legal status of the payback district and the Township’s obligations are discussed in a Township attorney confidential legal opinion).

Consistent with their idea that the payback district is a ‘fait accompli,’ the Board is in the process of discussing another step towards developing the Eastern remnants of rural land in the Township; another payback district to compensate the developer of Georgetown for building the second portion of the high-capacity sewer farther eastwards to Cornell Road. At the same time the Township Engineer is recommending renegotiating the original payback district to give the developer an additional decade to develop the Eastern half before the payback agreement expires (the original agreement expires in 2024; if development doesn't occur in that time, the Township’s obligation disappears).

Pretty technical, but the bottom line is that the current Board appears to be reversing decades of Smart Growth policy and laying the foundation for the largest parcel of undeveloped land in the Township to be developed as sprawl.

Developing this huge eastern parcel is obviously contrary to the Board’s and the Master Plan’s stated polices and contrary to the consistent expressed opinion of the citizens of the Township. Recall that the Board that voted to remove the original Urban Services Boundary, despite unanimous public opposition, were themselves voted out of office. The Township has voted twice, even in the teeth of the recent Great Recession, to fund land preservation to the tune of many millions of dollars. When North Lake Lansing Park was to be bounded by a residential development, Township residents rose up and raised $150,000 on short notice to spearhead preservation of that land.

The Georgetown 3 and 4 expansion that the Board will discuss at their next meeting is a very important turning point for the Township; if the Board goes ahead, they are effectively endorsing by their action for the first time the development of the Eastern half of the township.

The Board needs to hear from citizens and from other Commissions that taking this step turns away from Smart Growth and towards sprawl. The Board needs to be reminded that the cost to extinguish this payback district is a small fraction of the amount of money that Township residents have already chosen to commit to land preservation. The Board needs to reconsider this action in light of their own policies and the stated long standing citizen consensus that the rural character of the Eastern half of the Township be preserved