Unwanted Assessments Are Protocol for East Lansing

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The intersection of West and Coleman Roads in East Lansing were quiet Friday, but the construction taking over the area was causing an uproar. Residents on those streets are being assessed tens of thousands of dollars for improvements they didn't ask for. But East Lansing City Manager Ted Staton says it's the city's right to make these improvements and charge them to homeowners.

"Ultimately, it's the East Lansing City Council that will approve the specific assessments for the utilities and roadway improvements in this area of the city," Staton says.

That means construction on your dime can happen wherever and whenever the city sees fit. And homeowners must either pay up or move out.

"Each individual property owner is given formal notice of what their proposed assessment is, and they have an opportunity to oppose that proposed assessment," Staton adds.

The city started the project in North East Lansing even before formal assessments were sent out. Even so, Staton says homeowners have some rights.

"They have the right to be notified of what exactly the property assessment is, they have a right to object either in writing or in person before the East Lansing City Council, they have a right to participate in a public meeting and they have a right to appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal," he says.

Protocol differs between cities and townships, which are run by counties. Ray Severy, Meridian Township Director of Public Works, says assessment projects are joint ventures between government and residents.

"The township board can initiate the assessment, if they should happen to do that, and they had 20 percent of the property owners opposed to it, then they cannot proceed with the project," Severy says. "We would never start a construction project until we get authorization from the township board to proceed with construction."

Either way, if you own property, chances are someday you'll be paying for the paving.