Lowell Charter Township is in the early stages of planning for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility off Grand River Drive. Municipal water and sewer services are needed to facilitate development at the I-96 interchange in the township, but some local residents are unhappy with the proposed location of the plant.
The township is under a purchase agreement to buy 50 acres of land across from the South Grand River Riverfront Park. “The people who don’t want to see this happen are harassing [the seller] to no end,” says Lowell Charter Township Supervisor Jerry Hale.
Hale says the property is the ideal location, allowing the township to bore under the river and provide service to residents north of the Grand River. In the event the plant shouldn’t become reality, the land could be used for trails, a park expansion or other uses. “We will be purchasing this land, no matter what,” according to Hale.
However, neighbors in the area worry about the potential for odors and dropping property values. Some also argue the township has not been transparent about its plans.
Negotiations with City Fall Through
Currently, Lowell Charter Township owns 18% of the capacity in the City of Lowell wastewater system. It is also a wholesale customer of city water. Water and sewer services are primarily available to township residents who live west of the city limits and in subdivisions such as Whispering Hills by Meijer. As the township population grows, so too has demand for municipal water and sewer services.
“We’ve been working for roughly two years to get the city to expand [wastewater capacity], and they didn’t want to,” Hale says.
A proposed development along the I-96 interchange has spurred much of the recent discussion. Plans for the area call for a mix of uses including a hotel, restaurants, office space and light industrial. To make the plans a reality, though, municipal water and sewer services are needed.
The township and city had discussed the possibility of creating a water authority by which both municipalities would own the current water and wastewater systems. However, the city proposed a $8.5 million buy-in price for the township to join the authority which the township deemed unreasonable.
There was also discussion of running water and sewer lines from the current city-owned system to I-96. That idea was nixed after the city insisted it would only do so if a 425 agreement was put into place. A 425 agreement would result in the serviced land being taxed at city millage rates, something the developer refused.
With extending water and sewer lines from the city apparently off the table, the township has decided to create its own water and wastewater plants instead.
Township: Neighbors Won’t See, Smell Wastewater Plant
While neighbors have expressed concern about how a wastewater facility will affect their properties, Hale says people likely won’t even know it’s there. The seller owns 55 acres but is keeping five acres, along with a house, and will continue to live on that property. The remaining 50 acres will be sold to the township for the proposed plant.
“It’s going to be back in the middle of those 50 acres,” Hale says. “You won’t see it. You won’t smell it.”
The township supervisor notes the City of Lowell wastewater plant is next to the fairgrounds and near the downtown and doesn’t garner odor complaints. Other communities also have wastewater plants near businesses and homes without any problem. Hale points to Caledonia as an example, noting its facility is next to a housing development.
When asked why residents weren’t earlier informed of the township’s plans, Hale responds, “Well, we haven’t had anything to tell them.” He says the township just finished its feasibility study and up until its completion, there were no definite plans to share. Those who would like to see the feasibility study can request a copy from the Lowell Charter Township office.
“This is going to provide a lot of good paying jobs for this area,” Hale says of the development by the highway. However, construction by I-96 isn’t likely to start anytime soon. The township estimates it will be four years before the wastewater plant is built and ready to provide service. A separate water plant is expected to be constructed on donated land near I-96.