How to Form a Lake Management District
What is a Lake Management District?
A Lake Management District (LMD) is a form of special-service district that funds lake-management activities through charges on lake-area properties. Both the Thurston County Board of Commissioners and affected property owners must approve an LMD. Property owners vote by mail, and are granted one vote for each dollar they would be assessed under the proposed LMD. An LMD is established for a specific period of time, up to ten years.
The LMD formation process is defined in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 36.61). To start the process, LMD proponents must circulate a petition among affected property owners, and submit the petition to Thurston County Commissioners. After the petition is filed, it takes at least six months to actually form the LMD.
Proponents of new LMDs may need to hire consultants to help define the lake management program and develop the proposed boundaries and rates (Thurston County provides limited staff assistance for new LMD proposals.) The Thurston County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) may require proponents to submit financial security of up to $5,000 to cover procedural costs.
Which Activities Can an LMD Finance?
An LMD can finance a broad range of activities, including:
Over the past several years, Lake Management Districts have been formed for durations ranging from two to five years on Long Lake, Lake Lawrence, Summit Lake and Pattison Lake in Thurston County. (The Long Lake and Lake Lawrence districts are still in effect.) Projects funded by LMDs have included aquatic plant control, comprehensive lake studies, development of long-term management plans, and watershed controls to protect drinking water supplies.
In many cases, private consultants or vendors provide services to the LMD through a contract with the county. LMD funds may be used in combination with grants from state or federal agencies.
How Do We Begin the LMD Process?
Forming a committee or association of interested lake residents is the best way to begin. The first formal step in the LMD process is to submit a petition to the BOCC (or city council if the lake is in an incorporated area). The owners of at least 15 percent of the acreage in the proposed district must sign the petition in support of the proposal. It’s important to work with consultants and county (or city) staff in writing the petition; this will ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the proposed budget is feasible.
The petition should identify:
Financial security of up to $5,000 may be required with the petition.
What Property is Included in the Assessment District?
An LMD may include all or part of one or several lakes. Private- and publicly-owned lakefront property, and upland lots with access to a community beach area, is commonly included. In some cases, it may be appropriate to include the entire watershed in an LMD.
What is the Basis for Property Assessment?
LMD assessments or charges can be based on any reasonable factors, including: benefit, use, front footage, acreage, improvements or services to be provided. Allowances may be included for low-income property owners.
How Does an LMD Assessment Formula Work?
For example: Upland lots with access to a community beach may be included at a lower rate than waterfront lots. And waterfront lots could be mapped into "zones" which reflect reduced benefit where wetlands or other factors limit shoreline use. Public and private recreational areas may be placed in a special class and assessed based on benefit to users from the lake management program. Income from LMD rates are used only for activities specified in the LMD.
What Voice do Property Owners Have in Creating the Districts?
After the petition is submitted, all property owners within the proposed district are notified by mail of hearings on the LMD proposal. If following the initial hearing, the BOCC determines the LMD to be in the public interest, the proposal is put to a vote of the property owners within the proposed LMD. Votes are weighted one vote for each dollar of proposed assessment. If a majority of the returned votes are in favor of the proposal, the LMD is established by the BOCC. A final hearing is then held to consider written objections to the proposed LMD charges.
Who Manages the LMD? Do Property Owners Have a Role?
LMDs operate under the authority of the BOCC. LMD charges are collected by the Thurston County Treasurer as a specific item on the annual property tax statement.
There is not a separate elected commission for each LMD (as there would be for a drainage district or water district). However, ongoing involvement by lake property owners is crucial to a successful program. Forming a committee of lake residents is the preferred way to work with county staff and elected officials in initiating and implementing the LMD program. Successful LMDs using this model have implemented projects at Long Lake and Lake Lawrence.
Where Can I Get More Information?
The Department of Ecology at (360) 407-6000 has information sheets on lake management techniques and vendors, and on grant-funding opportunities. Technical assistance in preparing an LMD work plan may be available from consultants or other parties.
Staff contact: Janie Civille (360) 786-5830. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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