Wrap-up of Leelanau County Health Department Education Session; Is Housing the Root of Solving Most of Society’s Problems?; and Housing North Releases Housing Needs Assessment
In this week’s GAD Top Three my takeaways from the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department Sanitary Code hybrid Q&A hosted by Aspire North REALTORS this past Tuesday, June 27th thanks to Education Director Jennifer Kowal, an article arguing the importance housing plays in the quality of our lives and of our world, and Housing North releases their Housing Needs Assessment.
1. Wrap-up of Leelanau County Health Department Education Session
This past Tuesday, June 27th, Aspire North REALTORS hosted a Q&A with the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, Director of Environmental Health, Eric Johnston on the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department Sanitary Code updated in late January 2023 to require a Point of Transfer septic inspection on properties in Leelanau County, not just Benzie County which has had this requirement since 1992. In case you missed the session on Tuesday you can view it HERE. Here were my takeaways from the Benzie-Leelanau District Sanitary Code Q&A:
- Since the update to the Sanitary Code in late January, the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department has added an additional sanitarian in Leelanau County for a total of three sanitarians working in Leelanau County. They may add more staff to Leelanau County in the future if they need to do so based on the workload this year.
- They (Benzie-Leelanau Health Department) have considered certifying inspectors if their staff can not handle the workload. However, they have been hesitant because the process in health districts with certified inspector programs is if a system is determined to be unacceptable, then the system will still have to be submitted and reviewed by the local health department which will have to view the site before the permit process for correcting the issue can be initiated. This can cause additional delays that have led to grief and aggravation in other health districts, which is why the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department has not added certified inspectors as a septic inspection option at this time; in addition to a concern about maintaining consistency.
- In regards to homes that have undersized systems due to a single added room, the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department has a policy that if a system generally meets or is in substantial conformance with the Benzie-Leelanau Sanitary Code then it will receive a satisfactory inspection. If a system is undersized by 2 rooms or more then generally they will require that system to be upgraded to meet the current sanitary code.
- For systems that do not meet the current sanitary code, it can remain operational if it meets the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department’s standard of substantial conformance.
- Director Johnston stressed the importance of applying early for septic inspections because after someone applies they have to contact MISS DIG to flag areas they can not dig (takes 3 days) and for any wells, they collect a water sample and have to submit it to a laboratory which generally takes 5 to 10 days to turn their water testing around. So, in total, there can be a natural 2-week time lag for any septic inspection by the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department.
- It was mentioned that all of the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department’s property files are available online (View the records here for Benzie and Leelanau County, by parcel number) so you can see what is already available on a property and know what to expect.
- Regarding community septic systems, like Leland or Suttons Bay, Director Johnston expressed that EGLE (Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) regulates these systems, not the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department. They would only evaluate a property on a community septic system if it has a water well. They would only check water samples and the construction of the water well.
- Regarding water wells that test positive for contaminants, they are then treated by a well company, and then retest as acceptable. Director Johnston stated that the health department will still need to come out to verify these results and that the cost is the laboratory fee that the Health Department has to pay for each water test.
- Regarding a property that has a well and septic and that serves as nonresidential property, Director Johnston stated that those well and septic still need to be inspected even if no one will be living in the property, if they may potentially be used for humans to drink from.
- Regarding the inspection process for vacant properties, the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department tests for the usual septic inspection things and they will note that the septic system hasn’t been in use for a period of time. This is done to make the buyer aware that this property has been vacant as well as note any evidence of past system failures so the buyer can make decisions based on this information.
- Director Johnston shared that currently, the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department is completing septic inspections within 3 weeks of applying and he recommended if possible trying to apply a month ahead before listing a property to complete a septic inspection before it is listed, or at least as soon as you have it listed.
- Regarding shared septic systems, like one for a condo association, the Benzie-Leelanau Sanitary Code requires them to check the system every 3 years. They prefer to work through condo associations to keep septic systems up to code and not stick one condo owner with the inspection costs. However, if the system has not been checked through the condo association within the past 3 years then they will evaluate the system for the first condo sold and then the system will be up to code for any additional condos sold in that 3-year time frame.
- In the rare cases where weather or ground conditions prevent a septic inspection to be completed the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department will require a complete agreement between the buyer and seller of who is going to take care of the septic inspection when it can be completed.
2. Is Housing the Root of Solving Most of Society’s Problems?
As Homeownership Month (June) has drawn to a close, I have been thinking about an article - The Housing Theory of Everything - on the importance/effect that the current housing shortage has not only on individuals' ability to afford a home but on workforce productivity, innovation, wealth inequality, regional inequality, families, obesity, and climate change. In short, to quote the article “What matters is that housing shortages may be the biggest problem facing our era, and solving it needs to become everyone’s highest priority.” Worth the read.
3. Housing North Releases Housing Needs Assessment
In case you missed it and need some additional reading material for this July 4th holiday weekend Housing North just released their new 2023 Housing Needs Assessment this past week including a Wednesday, June 28th webinar where they took a first look at the 2023 Housing Needs Assessment data for the ten-county Northwest Michigan region (Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, and Wexford). For a summary of the webinar, check out the Traverse City Ticker’s article on June 29th.