Clock Running on Imposition of 1.5 Cent Tax Around Turnberry Lakes

Alternative futures for Turnberry Lakes.

Alternative futures for Turnberry Lakes shown in the pamphlet promoting the new Special Service Area.

The Lakewood Village Board voted 5-1 Tuesday night to allow a small 50-year tax the $55-56,000 annual proceeds of which will be spent to keep the lakes of Turnberry Subdivision clean and clear.

This year a Special Service Area (SSA) tax district covering a much larger area will expire.

It was unpopular among those taxed who did not live near the lakes.

The 5-1 vote started a sixty-day clock during which opponents to the proposed new 50-year Special Service Area (SSA) of 1.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation must gain signatures of

  1. 51% of the registered voters and
  2. 51% the property owners

in order stop it.

This state law, which I remember voting against in the 1970’s, makes it almost impossible to stop an SSA once a village board starts the process.

A serious challenge was made to a Johnsburg SSA, which resulted in a Circuit Court’s upholding the opposition’s petitions.

The Village appealed and, because the citizens could not come up with the money to pay for representation in the Appellate Court, the lower level decision was overruled.

Before the Lakewood Village Board would even consider this SSA, it required citizens supporting it to produce evidence of consensus in support of the new tax.

Village President Erin Smith, who lives within the proposed tax district, reported that 70-80% of the homeowners to be affected indicated support.

The ordinance, as explained by Village Administrator Catherine Peterson, will limit expenditures to

  • algae control
  • aerators
  • access maintenance
  • dock maintenance

“It does not include fish stocking,” she pointed out, being “very narrowly focused.”

Legal fees for starting the new SSA will come from funds left over from the old SSA.

Work done by village staff will not be reimbursed, however.

Trustee Gene Furey pointed out that the lakes are not natural and, without upkeep, “would revert back to a swamp.”

Opposition was strongly express by newly-elected Trustee Paul Serwatka.

He said he had knocked on eighteen doors at the edge of the proposed tax district and found sixteen who didn’t want to be part of the effort.

Two, whose names, I assume were on the list of those supporting the proposal, told Serwatka, “I did not vote ‘Yes.'”

One of the opponents said that his price would be $165 per year.  He said, “Almost no one here pays anywhere near $165.”

At this point, the animosity between Furey and Serwatka surfaced when Furey asked,

“Are you running for office?”

Paul Serwatka and Gene Fuery clashed at the meeting.

Trustees Paul Serwatka and Gene Fuery clashed at the meeting.

Serwatka is one of four seeking to replace State Rep. Mike Tryon as State Representative.

When Serwatka asked if opponents had the burden to be at the meeting, members of the audience, most in favor of the SSA, answered, “Yes.”

An opponent in the audience criticized the information distributed with the citizen-initiated survey, threatening to sue.

“I will defend this for free,” Lakewood Attorney Michael Smoron offered, pointing out that the ordinance being considered was what was “controlling.”

Serwatka pointed out that assessed valuation was not the only way the taxes to be collected could be apportioned.

Later he told me that he thought the seventy-some homes on the lakes should pay more than those without lakefront property.

He pointed out that he was in the current SSA, but would not be in the new one.

“I have no skin in the game,” he said repeatedly.

After Serwatka commented, “I think you’re doing a great disservice to a number of people,” Smith observed, “I think I know how you’re going to vote.”

“He’s running for another office.  That’s what this is all about,” Fuery interjected.

Muirfield, Lakewood

Muirfield Drive in Lakewood.

“It would truly be a shame if political activism prevented this board from serving our neighbors,” Trustee Carl Davis commented.

It was the audience’s turn then.

Muirfield Drive opponent.

Muirfield Drive opponent.

A opponent living on Muirfield said he favored a voluntary approach and that the tax would cause his property value to go down.

“I don’t want my property taxes any higher than they have to be.”

33-year resident Lyle Anderson said that he had “never seen such a concerted effort” and that it had been well-vented.

“I think we need to be realistic about it.”

Loren Hall wondered if the tax rate being authorized was not too high.  He thought 11-12 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation would “cover it.”  That would bring in $38-40,000.

The crowd at Lakewood's Special Service Area meeting.

The crowd at Lakewood’s Special Service Area meeting.  A tracker for State Rep. candidate Allen Skillicorn can be seen standing recording the meeting in the back of the room.

Don Foster, outside the proposed tax district, questioned the legality of using current SSA money to pay for setting up a new SSA.

The Village Attorney assured him that was legal.

Smith pointed out that there was an overlapping constituency.

Nicole Taylor, a Turnberry Property Owners Association pointed out that all seven Board members supported the SSA tax.

A group called the Turnberry Lakes Club reported having raised about $40,000 in voluntary contributions, its chairman said.

“I have a lot of concerns about how this is bring ramrodded through.”

He pointed out that people hired would have to be paid prevailing wage rates (usually higher than private enterprise would pay).

The contributions would be returned, he said, and would “shut down the TLC.”

“I don’t like the idea of being forced to pay taxes.”

Smith pointed out that she had also originally been in favor of a voluntary approach.

Commenting on what opponents would have to do to stop the SSA, a woman compared it with “salmon swimming upstream.”

Alan Kanaby

Alan Kanaby

Alan Kanaby, President of the Turnberry Property Association, spoke near the end of the meeting.

“We started this process in May of last year.

“These lakes are important to us.

“We did not try to mislead anyone.

“Turnberry to Lock Glen are the areas primary affected.

“Seventy-five percent of the population responded.

“Eighty-four percent of those said they would support it.

“Only thirty-five homes were against it.”

“We wanted a dependable and sustainable source of revenue,” he continued.

“It was voluntary before.

“As a result, the lakes started suffering as fewer and fewer people gave less and less money.

“This has been a long and arduous process for us.

“It’s because we love our lakes and our environment.

“I don’t think anyone has said they don’t want to save the lakes.

“I don’t want salad there,” Kanaby concluded to applause.


Comments

Clock Running on Imposition of 1.5 Cent Tax Around Turnberry Lakes — 17 Comments

  1. So, Mr. Furey, is it going to be that any time Mr. Serwatka voices an objection to what he might feel is a legitimate concern to his constituency, that you and Mrs. Smith are going to accuse him of some ulterior motive?

    Not a fair shot!

    My parents lived right on that lake photographed for thirty years, now my sister lives in the home.

    The lake has never been what I would consider, “attractive.”

    Other than enjoying fishing, I know nothing about the chemistry that goes in to such a project, but, I do know that many community type lakes of the size of Turnberry Lakes, utilize aeration ‘fountains.’

    I’m not referring to small aeration fountains, I’m talking about rather sizable ones that actually are very attractive.

    One question I don’t think I’ve seen asked is, “How will the chemicals used to treat the algae affect the wild life and the air quality for those living directly on the lake?”

    First the country club building shuts down and will obviously at some point become obsolete… swimming pool, ex.

    Now, if folks can’t agree as neighbors how to treat their lakes, they too will fall victim to political infighting, then next comes the smells, then the great ‘exit’ of those now calling Turnberry “home.”

    Respectfully,

    David Bachmann

  2. Careful of “simple minded” people there Joe.

    Some simple minds are responsible for having chased some who ‘believed’ they were so very much smarter than others!

    I’m as plain and simple as they come…..(obvious right?)

    It’s those who don’t live knowing what ‘fear’ is, that you should be mindful of Joe.

    “Waste not want not, fear not run not!”

  3. Gene, on the other hand, can’t wrap his head around why someone would possibly vote no or maybe he can but he’s just trying to discredit Paul.

    Whatever the case, Paul would have voted the same way whether or not he was going to run.

  4. It is interesting to me that this issue is an analog to the Lakewood tif: certain property taxpayers are enabled by law to force subsidization by other taxpayers.

    Those who live on the shore of a lake gain the most by having money spent to make the lake attractive.

    Yet they can force those without even a view of the lake to pay for benefits enjoyed ONLY by those ‘on the lake’.

    Compare and contrast to Lakewood tif:

    Lakewood homeowners send their children and pay all their taxes to Crystal Lake D47&D155.

    Yet Lakewood tif, which will generate tax revenues to the exclusive benefit of Lakewood, will have education costs entirely funded by taxpayers from Woodstock School District 200. Our tax rate is 4% -4.6% of total home values.

    Perhaps some Lakewood citizens can now better relate to the feeling of inequitable distribution of costs and benefits which they are now inflicting upon Woodstock School District 200 taxpayers.

  5. I do not know much about all these taxes issues so I will leave those comments to those who know much more than I.

    However, I’ve done a good bit of traveling to lakes, some private.

    One of my friends has a very large ‘pond.’ He treats his pond with some chemical for lack of a better word, that darkens out the entire bottom of the pond so that all the sunlight is choked off.

    I know whatever it is that is dumped into his pond is very safe environmentally speaking.

    It also leaves a rather pretty dark blue ‘hue’ to the color of the water.

    This is what blocks off the sunlight thus all the algae dies off naturally.

    Then place a large ‘fountain’ aerator in the center of each lake. Would be very attractive, and would supply a continued fresh supply of oxygen to the fish as well.

    Just a thought??

    Thank you Joe for the kind words.

    I just hope we can bring people together to get thing’s done.

    None of us are getting any younger and it would be nice to know Turnberry “CAN” be brought back to life for the next generation to enjoy.

    Thank you.

  6. Actually Susan, if you did research you would understand that almost every subdivision in Lakewood has it’s own ponds, lakes or wetlands.

    These ponds are part of the subdivision’s drainage system.

    In most subdivisions the original developer formed a legal entity (homeowner’s association) responsible for collecting dues to maintain the ponds.

    This legally requires residents of the subdivision to pay.

    The Turnberry subdivision was developed years ago and a homeowners association was NOT formed by the original developer to maintain the lakes.

    The lakes are part of the drainage system for that subdivision and some surrounding subdivisions.

    The SSA is simply a legal way for all the homes that benefit from the drainage system to pay for it’s maintenance.

    So no, it has nothing to do with your TIF example.

  7. Correct Jason…also of note that many might not be aware of.

    The “Original” developer went bankrupt well before the model home was even completed.

    I know this to be true because my father purchased the model home on Loch Glen Drive for 100,000.00 total.

    It was up for auction and he was the only person to even bid on the place.

    The home is gorgeous.

    So, those lake/pond issues came afterwards.

    Thank you.

  8. Ok Mr. Alan Kanaby Really what you say makes really no sense.

    You sent out survey to everyone and 75% of the homeowners replied.

    84% said they were in favor only 35 homes were not.

    That means that at least 84% of the 75% wanted to give money.

    Which means you don’t need a TAX.

    If you get that money from the 84% I am quite sure you will have enough money to do whatever you want to as far as cleaning, aerating etc. for the ponds.

    You won’t have to pay prevailing wage etc..

    You said it yourself less and less people were willing to put forth money over the years.

    Why is that?

    Choice!

    But because that was not working anymore now you have to TAX Lakewood more.

    If the people on those ponds want it clean they can clean it.

    Or people that want to kick in for the cleaning they can.

    Give an amount of what you need each year and with the homes that are in Lakewood and ask for donations.

    It is not like Crystal Lake, Lake Geneva where the whole public can enjoy those waterways.

  9. Upon reading comments I agree, no citizens of Lakewood will now better relate to the feeling of inequitable distribution of costs and benefits which they are now inflicting upon Woodstock D200 taxpayers.

  10. “Live On,” good comment however there is one problem that will affect everybody living within a mile of any of those ponds.

    That problem will be a horrific “Odor!”

    The fish will begin to die off and the ecosystems will be totally out of whack until it’s eventual death.

    I know I am not very bright and perhaps even naive when it comes to neighborhood matters.

    If individual pols can fund raise for themselves and make things happen for their campaign, why can’t everybody living in the Turnberry Subdivision, get together for a day out as neighbors with a common cause, perhaps a cook out, live band, and make it a “save our lakes” fundraiser?

    This really is a very simple matter.

    We are basically talking about ponds, not ‘lakes.’

    And, if something is not done sooner rather than later, you will lose those ponds to be sure.

    Then, that $500.00 annual donation turns into a fifty percent loss of your homes value due to obsolescence with “For Sale”signs on every other homes front yard.

    Seems like a no brainier to me?

    Synergy equates to “Positive Energy.”

    Or to quote a great mind, Larry the Cable Guy, “Git-R-Done!!”

    Thank You!

  11. Deliberation over this issue essentially evolved into a Paul Serwatka filibuster – and for very good reason!

    I believe very strongly that every member of the Lakewood Village Board, excluding myself, committed a gross injustice to hundreds of Lakewood residents by arbitrarily and capriciously instituting this new SSA.

    While there are many residents in other parts of Lakewood who were not affected by this gross injustice, it is imperative to remember that if government can commit injustice to Turnberry area residents today; it can commit injustice for the Gates area or any area tomorrow – an injustice to one must be viewed as an injustice to all.

    First and foremost, we need to call this exactly what it is. THIS IS A 50-YEAR PROPERTY TAX!

    For the past 25-years, 597 homes were included in an SSA to maintain the Turnberry lakes. My home was one of the 597. This SSA had come to expire and a new mechanism was needed to collect funds to maintain these lakes.

    While many residents thought it better to handle it amongst themselves, thereby enabling them to do away with the village, the imposition of a tax, the added expenses (prevailing wage and administrative) and government bureaucracies – there were some, primarily the 77 lake-front lake owners, who preferred to create a new SSA district.

    Opposition was raised early on by roughly 300 residents on the outskirts of the district. These residents were quickly released from the burden of the proposed new SSA district. My home was among those that were being released and would no longer be responsible for paying. So, I had no skin in the game. I was not fighting for myself.

    The new, arbitrarily selected, district would be comprised of approximately 293 properties while 77 lake-front homes surround the Turnberry lakes. These are the lake owners and my understanding is that they have actual ownership of the land up to and under the lakes to the center of the lake.

    The TPA came to the village board asking them to institute this new SSA. The village board told the TPA, specifically, that if they could demonstrate “strong support from the residents” from within this new, arbitrarily selected SSA District that they would move forward in instituting a new SSA.

    The TPA came back and informed the village that they had distributed a survey informing residents of the proposed new SSA and asking them to vote YES or NO on supporting it. They “reported” that they indeed had sufficient support. The following stats were “reported to the village.”

    – 293 surveys distributed
    – 221 replies received
    – 186 “YES” votes
    – 84% approval

    It was then reported to the trustees as well as to the residents, that “there was support by an overwhelming majority of the residents polled” and a new SSA would be instituted.

    (We’ll set aside the fact that the 186 alleged “YES” votes only equate to a 63% approval of all actual property owners in the new, arbitrarily selected district.)

    The village then sent out a letter to residents notifying of the following:

    – A new SSA district was being instituted.
    – This would constitute a TAX on their property and become part of their property tax bill.
    – The amount assessed would be calculated using a .15% multiplier against the assessed value of their property
    – The amount assessed would increase as their property value increased.

    This was cause for alarm for many residents as they said they were never informed of any of this.

    On Wednesday, July 8th, I met with 4 residents who contacted me, pleading with me to help them. They explained to me that they were misinformed by the survey that was provided to them by the TPA and after having voted YES, and then receiving the letter from the village telling them entirely different information, they would never have voted YES. They then showed me a petition signed by 19 of their neighbors attesting to the fact that they felt misled by the survey and light of the new information provided, no longer wish to vote YES.

    The residents then provided me a copy of the initial survey that was provided and voted upon.

    I read the survey and quickly ascertained that it, in fact, provided NO SUBSANTIVE INFORMATION WHATSOEVER. It talked of the importance of the lakes to the vitality of the village. It talked about how the lakes affected everyone’s property values and it talked of the importance of maintaining the lakes. It then stated that in order to maintain the lakes, they were being asked to contribute to a new SSA. They were told the amount being asked would equate to “approximately $165 on average for each residence.” And that “the specific amount would be contingent on the assessed value of their home”. No other facts or data were provided.

    Doing the math, we calculated the assessments against nearly 40 of these homes. The assessments varied in range from $220 to $410 with most being between $250 and $350 – a far cry from the “ $165 average per residence” as reported in the survey. And knowing, now, that the assessment will be determined using a multiplier against their homes assessed value it is reasonable to assume that these amounts would increase exponentially over 50 years!

    Here is the part that I find truly astounding.

    On Thursday, July 9th, I sent an email to village manager, Catherine Peterson asking her to forward, to me, the actual survey that was distributed to residents along with something showing the votes that were tallied. She replied, informing me that she did not have any of these documents. She stated “I was just given the figures that generated that quote from one of the TPA reps. I’ve asked for the details, and I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back.”

    So, here we are, just days before we are to vote on imposing a 50-YEAR PROPERTY TAX – the entire proposal of which was predicated on the idea that there was “overwhelming support by the residents” – and come to find out the village staff and board had never even seen any documentation of these reported facts!

    The next day, Friday, July10th, I received an email back from village manager, Catherine Peterson informing me that she was in receipt of the surveys and roster of votes and providing me with same.

    The survey sent was, in fact, identical to the one shown to me by the concerned residents. The vote roster consisted of a simple spread sheet with names, addresses and a column for YES or NO.

    On Saturday, July 11th, I spent a couple hours knocking on doors of residents who were marked as having voted YES. I spoke with 18 residents. 16 residents indicated that they too felt misled and in light of the new information provided would not vote YES. Two residents adamantly stated that they never submitted a survey. They did NOT vote at all and were upset that they were marked as YES votes.

    But, it gets worse, yet.

    The night of the village board meeting, as the board’s deliberations turned into a bit of filibuster on my part, I informed the board members of all my findings. They made clear that my findings were of no consequence to them.

    I then posed some very direct questions to members of the board as well as to the village attorney.

    Question 1 to board members:

    – Have you read the survey that was provided to residents?

    To this, they answered that they had “received” the survey

    Question 2 to board members

    – Do you believe the information provided in the survey was accurate and adequate so as to allow residents to make an informed decision?

    To this ALL board members answered that they did not recall what the survey said.

    Question 3 to board members

    – Have you seen the vote roster or counted the votes?

    ALL TRUSTEES stated they never saw a roster of votes.

    Question 4 to ALL BOARD MEMBERS, STAFF AND VILLAGE ATTORNEY

    – Have any of you actually seen any of the ballots showing that the votes took place and verifying the votes as reported?

    The answer by ALL BOARD MEMBERS – ALL STAFF – and THE VILLAGE ATTORNEY HIMSELF was a resounding “NO! We have never seen any ballots or even a vote roster!”

    NOT A SINGLE MEMBER OF THE BOARD, THE STAFF OR THE VILLAGE ATTORNEY HAS EVER SEEN A SHRED OF EVIDENCE VERIFYING ANY OF THE ALLEGED VOTES!

    THAT SHOULD ABSOLUTELY FRIGHTEN EVERY RESIDENT IN THE ENTIRE VILLAGE!

    I then presented three questions to the village attorney.

    TO ATTORNEY:

    1. In your professional legal opinion, do you believe the survey, as provided, constitutes reasonable information for residents, with which to provide informed consent?

    To this he responded that he had no knowledge of the contents of the survey.

    2. In light of:
    – the information contained in the survey,
    – the information that was spelled out after the survey,
    – The absence of actual ballots cast
    – The fact that residents today, as well as others not here today expressed not having an understanding of all the facts,

    And being that the creation of this entire SSA has been predicated on the notion that there is “Strong support from residents”

    3. Are you comfortable in advising board members to move forward on creating this SSA?

    4. Now knowing all of this, are you, or would you be, comfortable defending the village against any litigation that may arise from moving forward today- with the current perceived consent – we have today?

    The Village Attorney responded to these questions by stating that he was perfectly comfortable advising the board to move forward and would be willing to defend the board for free because the entire process of the survey and votes was not a requirement under state law.

    While this may be true by the letter of the law, my contention remains that I certainly do not believe that any of this behavior and or any of the actions by any of the board members are in any way reflective of the spirit of responsible, honest government,

    And while there was, as expected, quite a bit of hostility, throughout my filibuster, from the 50+ lake owners in attendance. And while some say I went on too long or was too animated in my arguments, I can only say that in my campaign I made a promise to the residents of Lakewood…

    I promised I would FIGHT for them!
    I promised I would do more than just “vote the right way”- that I would FIGHT!
    And I believe this night exemplified that I intend to keep that promise – and that I will NOT falter in the face of adversity!

  12. Paul, I agree with you most of the time but please explain why you feel why Turnberry residents should not be legally obligated to maintain drainage for their subdivisions?

    The rest of Lakewood is that way via mandatory associations.

  13. Country Club Additions is a voluntary property owners association, has drainage problems, but no dues money goes for that purpose.

  14. Most of you are completely missing the point!

    /this isn’t about the specific SSA!

    It’s about the WAY Lakewood Board has operated……

    Once again Lakewood Board is using whatever information will give them the answers they WANT!

    Just like the TIF “expert” that never followed through on any of the success of the TIF’s that they had “approved”.

    The numbers put before the board were not checked by the board, were not vetted by the board and the information to obtain the numbers was not full disclosure.

    That’s what they WANT!

    Just enough information provided to say they provided it but they already know the way it’s worded will get the answers they want……when are you going to understand that Lakewood residents!

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