It may have felt like a bit of a shotgun marriage, but the Willow Springs neighborhood is now part of the City of Detroit Lakes.
The city voted to annex Willow Springs in January, but the state agreed to wait to make it official until after the March 3 presidential primary election to avoid interfering with the township voting process, according to City Administrator Kelcey Klemm.
Willow Springs, a neighborhood of about 50 houses north of Oak Grove Cemetery on Highway 59, was part of Detroit Township.
State law gives a city the authority to annex (or absorb) residential territory of 120 acres or less that is surrounded by that city. The recent annexation of the new jail property and the older annexation of the North Tower Road area left Willow Springs surrounded by the city.
A number of Willow Springs residents opposed the annexation, according to Chuck Fritz, who said he has lived in the neighborhood with his wife for about 20 years. “I like living out of town,” he said in an interview.
“The fact that Willow Springs is an island is indisputable,” Fritz said in a Nov. 22 letter to Klemm and Community Development Director Larry Remmen. “However, our current situation is directly attributed to the ill-advised city sprawl northward to Tower Road.”
About 25 Willow Springs residents signed the letter to the city, he said.
Property taxes will go up by 34% for Willow Springs residents, because city property taxes are higher than Detroit Township property taxes. For example, a $180,000 residential property will see an increase from $1,640 to $2,206, according to Remmen.
Any special assessments for road improvements and water and sewer infrastructure will be on top of that.
“It will impact my ability to sell my house, and it will impact the price I get,” Fritz said in an interview, adding that city officials told him home property values tend to be higher within city limits, but he said he could find no evidence that that is the case.
Fritz said Willow Springs homeowners were told the benefits they would receive from the tax increase include road maintenance, city police patrol, and the use of city parks, trails and other public amenities. “If that’s all they’ve got, it’s a sad, sad excuse for government action,” he said in an interview.
Willow Springs homeowners already get road maintenance and police services from the county and township, and city amenities are open to everyone already, he said.
Fritz said he and other Willow Springs residents believe the city’s true motivation is growth, “with an eye toward increasing city tax revenue,” he said in the letter. And the brunt of the costs will hit Willow Springs property owners “who have had no decision-making representation in this annexation process,” he added.
It’s not clear what improvements the city will make in Willow Springs.
“Currently, it’s in our capital improvement budget for 2022,” Klemm said. “That’s probably the earliest we’ll get to it.”
Informational hearings and improvement hearings will be held to give residents some idea of what improvements will be made and what the cost will be, Klemm said. “They would be invited to meetings,” he added. “It would have to go through the special assessment and improvement process.”
Willow Springs residents will start paying city property taxes next year, he said. This year’s tax bill will not change.