LEESBURG — An independent, small committee of residents of Tippecanoe Lake have organized and gathered petition signatures from landowners representing more than 500 of approximately 1,200 land parcels. These homeowners support forming a lake conservancy district with the sole responsibility of installing a sewer system for the lake.
Tippecanoe Lake is one of the last, large lakes in Kosciusko County to install a sewer system. There are many reasons shared at www.sustainourlake.com for installing a sewer system versus disposing of waste in unregulated septic systems, which are individually installed and maintained by homeowners.
For new homes constructed in areas without public sewers, Kosciusko County requires a minimum 20,000-square-foot lot size. This requirement is more than twice the size of the average Tippy home site. Many are far less than 10,000 square feet. To meet the requirement, new homes or existing homes replacing septic systems are forced to purchase and devalue back lots to make room for septic systems — or expensive, complicated system designs are required if space is available.
The average, perfectly maintained septic system placed in perfect soil conditions has a life span of 20-25 years. However, the project engineers have found Tippy soil conditions are less than perfect. This condition is further complicated on small lots where the 50-foot isolation requirement of water wells from nearby septic systems cannot be met.
“Even when septic systems are constructed in favorable soils and are regularly maintained, vertical proximity to the water table in densely developed areas, like Tippy, raises real concerns,” stated Ken Jones, project engineer and president/CEO of Jones Petrie Rafinski. “Where the isolation for water wells cannot be achieved, this can often develop a preferential pathway for contaminants between septic systems and water wells. Sewer systems address lake residents’ concerns about surface water resources. Also, most have also recognized that their drinking water is even more of a concern.”
Another concern for Tippecanoe Lake residents is the flooding of low lands during high rains. The flooding of septic leach beds can push back water toward water wells or pull contaminated surface water back into the lake, stated Jones.
“We have strong support for this project. The only expressed difference, which the district board will need to decide is the fee structure,” stated Joe Tynan, district formation committee leader. A few residents believe the cost should be an equal flat fee for all residents. Tynan shared the committee will recommend a variable fee structure based on a percentage of each property’s assessed value. Seventy percent of homes on the lake have an assessed value less than $300,000 or are residents living on fixed incomes. “We simply want to be fair so that everyone can afford to pay for the sewer system,” stated Tynan.
Another concern raised is whether a sewer system will make condominium developments more prevalent and create a lesser desirable, higher density population. Steve Snyder, attorney of Snyder, Morgan, Federoff and Kuchmay, confirms the current zoning regulations for the lake restrict the possibility of condominium developments. The sewer system or its managing conservancy district will have no impact on these regulations.
The group aims to collect 200 more signatures through the week of Labor Day to prepare for the application and formation of the conservancy district. Once approved, a board of directors will initially be appointed. Subsequent members’ terms will be elected.
Visit www.sustainourlake.com for project details.