Community History

Community History

1958-small - CopyLake Isabella has a history unique among incorporated communities in Michigan.The Village has been an incorporated Rule Village since 1998.  The process to incorporate began in the mid 1990's with the Committee for Lake Isabella Village Incorporation (CLIVI). The committee of Ken Torgerson, Tom Debor, Cathy McGee, Ed Spayd, and Bill Dunham worked hard to organize the committee and file the required forms and petitions with the State Boundary Commission. CLIVI then gave way to the Lake Isabella Charter Commission.   This group of Elmer Ledbetter, Jack Adkins, Ken DeVergilio, Ray Lombardi and Chairman Gerald Gaudette had the duty of drafting the Village's Charter to present to the voters.  In April of 1998 the community voted 305-110 in favor of the Charter and Incorporation.  The beginnings of the Village government are just as unique as the beginnings of the community. 
The Village began as a commercial development in the late 1960s.  The development was the brain child of Golden Grigg,  Nephi Grigg and Leo Gatehouse.  The Grigg brothers were door to door produce salesmen in the early twentieth century.  Their business interests grew to include their own produce and dairy  farm,  restaurant, appliance store and insurance and real estate businesses.  In 1951 the brothers purchased the Oregon based Bridgeford Company which was in bankruptcy at the time.  In doing so they expanded their business interests to include frozen food commodities.  To support the investment they also purchased a processing plant and eventually renamed their frozen food enterprises as Ore-Ida Potato Products.  The Grigg brothers would later sell their corporation to the H.J. Heinz Company.  Seeking another investment opportunity they ventured into land development.  The project that they would participate in would be like none other in the state of Michigan.  Leo Gatehouse had a dream for the farmland near his family's home on Coldwater Road., That dream centered around damming the Chippewa River and creating an 800 acre lake with residential development surrounding the lake.  In 1968 it finally happened, and the community of Lake Isabella began to develop as a four-season recreational haven.

LakeIsabellaOriginalLayoutPlan-smallerBy the mid 1990's it  became clear that in order to provide the highest quality of services for the residents who make Lake Isabella home the community needed to incorporate as a municipality.  Until that time the duties that a municipal government would handle were in the hands of the County, Townships, and the Lake Isabella Property Owner's Association (LIPOA).  The LIPOA still is very active in the development of the community and is governing body over nearly all of the parks in the Village and controls the access to the lake. The LIPOA also owns the Lake Isabella Dam, and is in charge of the annual lake treatment.

Incorporation was by no means an easy task.  Committed and knowledgeable residents worked endlessly with the state and in 1998 Lake Isabella became the state of Michigan's newest incorporated Home Rule Village.  Lake Isabella became the first new Village in the state in nearly half a century.  Several communities from around the state that have also considered incorporation have called upon the knowledge of the leaders of Lake Isabella to help them in the effort to become incorporated.  Since incorporation the Village has continued to grow.  Today the Village is staffed by three full-time employees and several part time employees.  Additionally, the Village also works hand-in-hand with the local excavating service for nearly all road upkeep and repair.  With the Village being built around a lake, it has many more miles of road than a typical municipality with the same size population.  The Village presently has 28 miles of streets.

Lake Isabella 101-1The Village of Lake Isabella is committed to providing the highest level of service to it's residents and guests, while doing so at the lowest possible cost.  Lake Isabella is central Michigan's premier location, it provides enjoyment opportunities whether you seek fun on the land, water, or in the air.  The Village has a Championship Golf Course that is open to the public, and the Lake Isabella Airport which features a half mile airstrip for private and recreational airplanes.  Another defining characteristic of the Village is the property tax mill cap that is written into the Village charter.  The Village's Charter caps the operating Millage to no more than 1 Mill.  In addition to the Village, the community is largely serviced by the Lake Isabella Property Owners Association.   The infograph to the right shows which entity is charged with specific duties in maintaining our community.

As a local unit of government, the primary goal of the Village of Lake Isabella is to provide essential services in the most cost effective manner possible.  The Village’s budget and Capital Improvement Plan reflect this goal by taking a multiple year approach to fiscal planning. The Village of Lake Isabella has adopted several financial policies which reflect this approach to budgeting.  More information on these policies and the financial condition of the Village can be found by visiting our Financial Reports page.

This sound approach to managing the public’s funds has allowed the Village of Lake Isabella to remain largely free from the financial problems that other local units of government have faced in recent years.  However, that does not insulate the Village from larger impact of factors outside of its control. Some of these factors include the decline in property values seen during the "Great Recession", uncertainty in future gas tax revenue, and increasing costs and inflation. These factors continue to place the Village in the position of needing to carefully watch expenditures. As part of our budgeting process, revenue and expenses are divided into on-going versus one-time activity. The thought process being that as long as on-going revenue is greater than on-going expenses the organization is stable in terms of our financial structure.

If you have questions, please feel free to call the Village Hall (989.644.8654) or the LIPOA Office (989.644.3326). You can also visit our friends at the LIPOA online at