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Lake County Communities Banding Together To Address Erosion

Thirteen municipalities in Lake County are banding together to help residents address the cost of erosion on lakefront properties.

The cities are working to create a special improvement district, or SID, to help lower the financial risk and obligations of erosion protection, including offering targeted loan options.

Mayors in Willoughby, Willowick, Eastlake and North Perry realized they were all receiving similar complaints from residents about the need for assistance along the lakefront, Willoughby Mayor Bob Fiala said. But there weren’t many options to help, he said, as most erosion protection programs don’t cover private property.

“It puts a homeowner under a really difficult situation where they could become really financially strapped, trying to protect their property either by having to mortgage their house or take out a lot of loans,” Fiala said.

Officials landed on the idea of a SID as a way to provide options for waterfront property owners. Its creation allows for an additional tax on participating properties, Fiala said, and funds from that tax can be used to help provide low-interest loans to residents for erosion protection efforts.

“It gives us the ability to borrow money and then that money can be used by residents to fund erosion control measures on their property,” Fiala said.

Two years in the making, the SID is in now in the final planning stages, Fiala said, after getting legislation approved by all 13 municipalities. City leaders are working with banks to come up with financing terms, he said, and he hopes it will go into effect – meaning loans and project permits will be available – later this year.

A loan through the SID would provide a layer of financial security for property owners, said North Perry Mayor Ed Kclo. If a homeowner decides to move away after taking out an erosion-related loan, he said, the loan will stay with the property instead of following them.

“They can’t afford to pay it upfront. They can’t afford a high interest rate,” Klco said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, if there are some health issues or one of them passes away and the other wants to sell the property.”

North Perry has lost roughly 80 feet of land in the last year and a half, Klco said, particularly along the land by its village hall.

“All the lakefront property owners, we’re getting hammered pretty good and we need to help our residents,” Klco said. “It’s very important. Lakefront property isn’t made every year.”

While the terms of the SID aren’t finalized yet, residents are already asking what they need to do to get a loan, Klco said. Some of the pieces, such as interest rates, are still in the works, he said.

“We have banks talking to us about setting up interest rates and setting up a term loan on how long it will be, but that has not been on paper yet for us to sign,” Klco said.

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