Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

November 15, 2012

Supervisors deny Rural Improvement Zone petition filed by Coves at Sundown Lake property owners

By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — The Appanoose County Board of Supervisors in a special session 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 voted 3-0 to deny a Coves at Sundown Lake property owner's petition to establish a Rural Improvement Zone at the lake development in northeast Appanoose County.

For the second agenda item Tuesday the supervisors voted 3-0 to retain Tom Anders as legal counsel at $120 per hour effective Oct. 22 in regards to this matter. Anders prepared the resolution the board voted on to deny the petition and the one Supervisor Linda Rouse would read in its entirety before the approximately 25 who attended the the special meeting that adjourned at 2:14 p.m.

The Coves of Sundown Lake property owners filed a petition to establish a RIZ on Oct. 11 and the Appanoose County Supervisors held a public hearing on the petition  Oct. 22.

During the public hearing Jason Kok, the lake's main sales agent and attorney Denny Chalupa, representatives for Sundown Lake, presented photographic evidence they believed illustrated past shoreline erosion at the lake. They also talked about past attempts to control the erosion and expenses incurred.

At stake is the collection of taxes. If a RIZ was established at Sundown Lake, the RIZ would be entitled to receive and use all future real estate taxes based on the total incremental taxable valuation or any increase in the tax base for the proposed zone from and after the date it was approved.

An increase in valuation could include the construction of new homes and additions to current homes.

On Oct. 22 Chalupa said Sundown Lake homeowners are taxed by the county but none of the tax revenue is returned to them to maintain the lake.

"This gives the homeowners an opportunity to annex the funds from taxes that result in increased valuations within the district to apply towards its expense of maintaining the lake," Chalupa said Oct. 22 during the public hearing. "The goal would be that the lake would be improved to the point that there would be no further need for (RIZ). It it's not maintained the lake will deteriorate to the point that it will lose tax dollars."

The tax dollars collected through the RIZ would have been used for improvements such as as dredging, installation of erosion control measures, land acquisition, and related improvements, including soil conservation practices, within or without the boundaries of the zone.

The resolution states if a RIZ was established, it would "seriously impact schools and local government by absorbing incremental increases in the tax base."

Some of the reasons the Board of Supervisors rejected the RIZ petition included:

• The enhancement of private assets should not be accomplished at the expense of all other taxpayers of the county.

• The statutory requirements have no rational basis as applied to Appanoose County and Sundown Lake, they are ambiguous and the application of the provisions of Chapter 357H irrationally discriminate against the remaining residents of the county.

• A petition for the establishment of a RIZ must be signed and submitted by residents of the proposed RIZ and the Board determined only a small percentage of the 172 petitioners were actually residents of the proposed zone. The petitioners must represent at least 25 percent of the total assessed value of the proposed zone but the Board has examined the assessments for the properties located within the proposed zone and has determined that the assessed values of the properties owned by persons residing at Sundown Lake do not comprise at least 25 percent of the assessed value of the zone.

• The proposed RIZ would have a critical long term impact on the taxes which would otherwise be available for school and local governments.

• Sundown Lake is located within the Soap Creek Watershed, an area proscribed by federal and state agencies which have established various planning and funding options for dealing with improvements at issue here and the establishment of a RIZ would result in the supplanting of federal state funds with critically needed local tax dollars.

Read the resolution in its entirety at www.dailyiowegian.com by clicking on the story headline.