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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a legal lake level?
    Michigan law allows a County Board of Commissioners to establish “normal levels” (also commonly referred to as “legal levels” or “court-ordered lake levels”) on inland lakes through circuit court proceedings. A 1967 order of the Arenac County 23rd Circuit Court set Forest Lake normal levels at 727 feet above mean sea level for summer and 722 feet for winter.
  • What is Part 315?
    Part 315, Dam Safety, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Pa, is the legal framework that requires anyone who wants to construct a dam of specified dimensions must first obtain a permit from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
  • What is Part 307?
    Part 307, Inland Lake Levels, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 Pa, is the legal framework for establishing and maintaining inland lake levels.
  • Does the public get to vote on this?
    State law does not give the public the ability to vote on a lake level assessment or establishing a lake level special assessment district. Yet, it offers various opportunities for public comment and input. The County must balance interests from various stakeholders (such as lakefront and backlots) in this process but encourages public comment to help it come to the best proposal for any assessments or assessment district.
  • Is a lake level special assessment district the same as the weed treatment special assessment district?
    No. Different state laws require separate special assessment districts for certain lake improvements. A separate state law and assessment process governs weed treatments.
  • How does the County establish a lake level special assessment district?
    Establishing a lake level special assessment district requires the County to amend the historical lake level order to include a district. It does this by filing a petition in the 23rd Circuit Court of Michigan. All property owners within the proposed special assessment district will receive mailing notice informing them of the court hearing to consider amending the lake level order for a special assessment district and may attend that hearing.
  • Who will be in the lake level special assessment district?
    A lake level special assessment district can generally only include properties that “benefit” from a lake level. Accordingly, it is the County’s intent to include properties that can access the lake. These include lakefront properties and those that may have “deeded access.”
  • Why is the County establishing a lake level special assessment district now?
    The Forest Lake Dam spillway needs significant repairs. Based on the required repairs, there needs to be a formal funding source for the work and future maintenance of the lake level infrastructure.
  • What laws govern the establishment of a special assessment district?
    The statute that governs established inland lake levels outlines a process to pay for lake level infrastructure operation and maintenance costs by special assessments (Michigan Compiled Law 324.30714). The same statute notes that a circuit court’s lake level order must confirm the boundaries of any special assessment district (MCL 324.30707(5)). A court order did not establish a special assessment district boundary to authorize assessments to maintain lake level infrastructure for Forest Lake. To ensure that the County can maintain the lake’s required lake levels, a special assessment district is being established to provide a funding mechanism for the infrastructure. Many inland lakes throughout Michigan with a legal lake level has a corresponding lake level special assessment district.
  • What should I do if I see a property with lake access that is not included in the proposed special assessment district? Or a property that is included in the proposed district without access to the lake?
    Fill out the contact form on our website to let us know of any properties that you think need to be added or removed from the proposed district. Be sure to specify the property that is in question and why you believe it should be removed or added to the district. The County will investigate any properties submitted to it to determine whether they should be in the district or not.
  • When will I know my proposed lake level assessment amount?
    Assuming the court establishes a lake level special assessment district, this would occur after the court hearing at a future public meeting (those subject to potential assessments would receive mailing notice). The County cannot estimate assessments prior to a district being created as it will not know how many properties will be in the district to determine how costs will be spread.
  • Will the court hearing to consider establishing a lake level special assessment district determine how much I will pay in assessments?
    No. State law only allows a court to determine the properties that can be assessed (or otherwise are in the district). Determinations as to how much any assessments will be or apportionments for assessments are determined at a future public hearing and ultimately must also be approved by the County Board of Commissioners.
  • How will the County consider affordability of the lake level assessment?
    Although lake level infrastructure is extremely important and must be adequately maintained, it is also important to balance the affordability of any projects and potential assessments. The lake level statue allows a County to finance lake level projects and spread assessments over a variety of years to make annual payments manageable for those within a special assessment district.
  • Will there be an assessment for the dam improvement project?
    There will be a capital improvements assessment only if other funding sources cannot pay for the entire project. The special assessment district will also be used for future maintenance of the dam infrastructure beyond the project.
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