Local

Lakewood takes first formal step on creating new SSA despite 'filibuster'

LAKEWOOD – Lakewood's newest Village Board member turned a vote on whether to replace the Turnberry Lakes' expiring special service area into "somewhat of a filibuster."

The Lakewood Village Board was considering an ordinance proposing the creation of the special service area, a way of taxing specific properties within a municipality for a service specific to that area, that would be used to cover core maintenance services for the lakes and would cover a smaller territory than the original SSA.

The ordinance, which passed in a 5-1 vote, is the first step in the process of creating an SSA. A 60-day waiting period follows before the village can hold a public hearing on the proposal.

The discussion Tuesday evening ended up lasting two hours, Village Administrator Catherine Peterson said.

The development was somewhat unexpected because the board had told the Turnberry Property Owners Association they would only consider an SSA if they demonstrated there was strong support in the neighborhood for one.

And the sole no vote, Trustee Paul Serwatka, said he hadn't planned on turning his comments into a filibuster, but that he was "just astonished that the trustees didn’t see the problem."

The problem was that several neighborhood residents had approached him after the village had sent out a letter to all the homes in the neighborhood, informing them that the Turnberry Property Owners Association had brought them the results of a survey showing 84 percent of respondents favored the creation of an SSA and the village would be moving forward with that process.

The information in village's letter caused at least four residents who had voted yes to do a double take, Serwatka said. They didn't realize it was a property tax, and they didn't realize the tax would be based on their assessed values, going up as their home values went up.

The four-page survey – which does say the specific amount each homeowner would pay would be based on their assessed values – was just one of many communications from both the village and the property owners association that went out over the last several years, Village President Erin Smith said.

Smith, who lives in the neighborhood, said there were also many meetings, people going door to door, phone calls and signs posted around the neighborhood.

The other problem, Serwatka said, was that the village did not verify the results of the survey, something Smith said they didn't do because there was no reason to suspect the results were fraudulent.

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