Trustees postpone mailing of second waterline questionnaire

By Chris Studor

June 20 township trustees meeting

Trustees elected to postpone sending a second letter, at least temporarily, to residents living in the township’s historic district as a way of gauging interest in having a county waterline extended to the center of town.

The first letter was mailed to residents living in three areas of the township in May, polling whether they would be interested in tying into the proposed waterline if installed and if they would agree to being assessed for the cost of extending the line and any associated tap-in fees if the project were to move forward. The decision to send those letters came after Hinckley resident Shawn Gaffney announced plans to transform a 9-acre parcel he owns in the historic district and requested that the waterlines be extended.

Trustee Monique Ascherl indicated during the June 6 trustees meeting, however, that there wasn’t sufficient resident interest in supporting the waterline project. She said all the responses were tallied from the first mailing and the township received just a 17.5% positive response rate. Any residents who failed to respond to the inquiry, she said, were counted as no-votes.

Trustee Melissa Augustine said June 20 that she disagreed with the interpretation of the survey results as reported by Ascherl, who had an excused absence from the June 20 meeting.

“[On June 6], I didn’t have time to do a thorough exam of the survey results,” said Augustine. “In viewing the B-3 district, where the water would connect from an easement near Our Lady of Grace Church and go north down Ridge to town center, I calculated that the majority property owners, including Hinckley Elementary School, replied they would be in favor of a water line going to the center of the township.”

Augustine suggested that in order to get a true picture of how residents in the district feel about tying into a water line, a second letter should be mailed to those who failed to reply, again requesting their opinions.

“A couple of people said they never received the letter, a couple said they didn’t see it until after the deadline and a couple of property owners responded that they would do what was best for the community,” said Augustine.

Trustee Jack Swedyk said he didn’t want to make a decision on whether a second mailing should be sent out until there was a full board, which was expected at the first meeting in July.

Augustine has campaigned for water to be brought to the center of the township saying many residents do not have enough water pressure, have poor water quality and that the lack of water deters businesses from investing in their property. Currently there are no water lines servicing downtown Hinckley.

Augustine suggested in May that trustees explore the possibility of establishing tax increment financing to fund running the water line needed for Gaffney’s proposed development. As part of the TIF, the county auditor would redirect a portion of property taxes, typically for a period of 10 years, to help reimburse Gaffney for the cost of installing the water line. During the payoff period, the township would receive the current property tax value for the site as well as 25% of the newly appraised value. At the end of the payoff period, the township would receive all the property tax from the site.

Trustees Ascherl and Swedyk said they were not in favor of further discussing the formation of a TIF and Swedyk added that he views TIFs “as a tax on the people.”

Gaffney previously indicated, however, his plans for the development do not hinge on whether trustees move forward with the TIF in order to go forward with the project. While trustees reviewed concept plans for Gaffney’s project, which would include retail shops, restaurants and more, the board will not be charged with approving the plan. That responsibility lies with the township zoning commission.

In other business:

  • Swedyk said the township would be using American Rescue Plan funds for repairs in the Brookside development and will explore the possibility of using ARP funds for future work on Bethany Lane.
  • Trustees agreed to table further discussion of a resolution allowing the township to clean up a residential property at 25 River Rd. until the full board of trustees was present. Augustine said the township has been trying to work with the property owner for several years to clean up the site.∞