At the Suburban Improvement District board meeting last Thursday commissioner David Orr read Res. 2020-R3 which supports a vote by the people on the matter of incorporating Holiday Island as a town or city with a population of more than 1500. A hearing before County Judge Sam Barr is scheduled for Tuesday, March 10 at 9 a.m. in the Carroll County courtroom in Berryville. If Barr approves the resolution there will be a vote at the next general election, Nov. 3.
“When it comes to the long-term viability of Holiday Island, we know one thing to be an absolute fact – it’s pure arithmetic,” commissioner Dan Kees said. “By 2032 we will exhaust the excess benefit here unless we start severely curtailing services that the district spends money on so that assessments can be reduced to where they are less than six percent interest on amortized assessed benefit which would, I think, concern all property owners if we cut back on spending.”
Kees said he believes approving the resolution is the first step in taking action to address Holiday Island’s future financial feasibility.
“I think that what we are looking at is preparing ourselves for the future,” Orr said. “As a board member I support it in a capacity for the SID to work with the new-formed city.” Orr said that the SID would, in essence, become the department of Public Works as it would operate services and amenities of the city.
Commissioner Bill Noonan said that as a city, the government would be eligible to file for more financial grants and benefits not currently open to improvement districts. Noonan also said that the gasoline tax paid in the district currently is paid to the county, and if the district were to incorporate, the tax would be a benefit paid to the city. That benefit was estimated at $500,000.
Former commissioner Linda Graves is acting district manager while Lawrence Blood is on leave, and she said that originally she was against incorporation but has come to recognize its potential benefits. If the SID works together with the city, she said, the organization can fund itself while the city can grant ordinances to regulate the city limits.
“The SID is definitely going to run out of money to operate on by about 2032, as Dan mentioned, and that is critical because if we let that happen property values are going to sink,” she said. “We have to do something, we have to plan for the future. We’re a cooperative group that I think can all work together.”
Chair Ken Brown agreed with Graves regarding the ability of the SID to work together with the city and referred to regional examples for comparison. “I think the SID and city can work together just like Cherokee Village does and Bella Vista does.”
Brown described Bella Vista as a POA, a property owned association that works well with the property owners and the areas amenities. “The future looks bright for Holiday Island,” Brown said. “We can make this work.”
Former commissioner Ken Mills, a current member of the Incorporation Committee and a resident for 26 years, spoke of the current lack of building code enforcement. Mills has long been an advocate for incorporation, less for the purpose of financial feasibility and more for enforceable standards of building guidelines.
Mills said that the HISID boards’ approval of the proposed resolution will show Judge Barr that there is support in the SID for the election.
“I cannot see why people are opposed to a democratic election to see if people in Holiday Island want to incorporate or not,” he said. Mills stated that the process begins once Barr grants resolution approval. If the people vote for incorporation in November, there will be another election to appoint ward officials for a city of the second class.
“Even though we have the population for it, the statute says a city of the second class has to have a population of 1500 and have wards to elect aldermen.” Therefore, it was recommended that Holiday Island incorporate as a town first.
Kees stated that if Barr approves the resolution the HISID board will provide notification and information to property owners on the upcoming election. Nita Holley clarified that she, as a commissioner, is not going to tell the property owners and residents how to vote in November. “We are not saying, ‘Do it,’ and we’re not saying, ‘Don’t do it,’ but we want it to go to a vote.”
Resolution 2020-R3 was adopted unanimously.
Since the 17th is President’s Day, the next meeting was moved to Feb. 24.