Dunn created a scoring system to determine which new developments will get a share of its sewer taps.
Dunn created a scoring system to determine which new developments will get a share of its sewer taps. The taps have become a coveted prize in the city as it wrestles under a moratorium stunting its growth in the midst of a growth spurt.
City leaders want new developments — quality developments, but they only have a limited number of new taps to give out as they fix the inflow and infiltration problems that led to the moratorium.
“If we’re going to be in a pinch for sewer and we’re only going to have so much — what we want to have is going to be ... worth the effort,” City Manager Steven Neuschafer told the city council in a special called meeting Monday night.
Under the plan, any developer who meets a threshold of 55 points has a shot at a sewer tap. Points are awarded based on type of construction project, its finished tax status and any amenities like crawl spaces, garages and sidewalks.
The new policy also gives the city manager the discretion of approving new single-family developments of 20 lots or less, multifamily developments of 100 units or less and nonresidential developments that produce 10,000 gallons per day or less of wastewater.
Anything else requires city council approval and phased wastewater allocations that depend on certificates of occupancy.
Developers have three years to make use of wastewater allocations, but with limited hookups allowed under the moratorium, council members cringe at the thought of a wasted three years.
“The fear of that is, right now we’re in a very hot market and if we tie up allocation (or) if you make it too small, it’s not worth a developer to come in and spend his money to put in the subdivision,” Mayor William Elmore said at Monday’s meeting. “But if we give it to folks that aren’t going to use it, then we’ve lost out on the developers who might. And we don’t know what the market’s going to be in three years.”
The policy splits allocations for new construction projects into four groups:
With the expansion of Interstate 95 and the plans for U.S. Highway 421 to become a new interstate, Councilman Billy Tart urged the board not to forget about retail.
“We’re just 25% for retail. Personally, I’d rather see it 30, 30, 30 and then maybe look at it in nine months or in a year and if we hadn’t used it in one, maybe we can switch it to the other,” Tart said. If retail is ready to come with the interstate “and we’ve got our water and sewer tied up in projects that may take three years, the retail is not going to wait three years.”
The mayor said he wasn’t sure about retail, but he knows of three housing developments in the works or planning stages.
“Those three projects could absorb all of this (sewer allocation) quickly and it may be a year build-out and in that time, maybe we’ll be in the position that we’ve got 500,000 gallons per day (to allocate),” Elmore said. “I don’t think we need to let so much of it go that ... we can’t service them (retail) as well. I don’t know. It’s a tough decision we have to make.”
The mayor urged action and cautioned against delays.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever agree there’s a perfect system for this. I think the best we can hope for is to do our best and come back and revisit (this) in a quarter or six months,” said Councilman Dr. David Bradham. “I think we’re looking for a perfect solution that doesn’t exist.”
Councilman J. Wesley Sills motioned to approve the policy. Councilman Chuck Turnage offered a second. Sills, Turnage, Bradham and Councilman Frank McLean voted in favor of the points plan. Councilman Tart voted against it.
Councilwoman April Gaulden couldn’t attend the meeting.
“In March of 2021, the Department of Environmental Quality placed the city on a sewer moratorium based on wastewater overflows stemming from inflow and infiltration (I&I) of stormwater into the city’s wastewater collection system,” Neuschafer wrote in a memo to the council, introducing the draft policy.
“As part of (the) process to rehab and repair the system to decrease some of the I&I, the city reached an agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality to allow new flow into the system based on a number of extensive projects that are designed to address the I&I into the collection system. In that agreement, new flow in the system will be allowed to be allocated on a predetermined and agreed upon amounts of flow into the system based on the amount of corrected I&I per project.”
“Due to being restricted on the amount of new flow allocation” and to give all developers an equitable chance to obtain sewer taps, Neuschafer said, “the city worked with The Stewart Group to develop an allocation policy.”
In addition to fairness among developers, the police gives the city’s staff and council the “ability to promote and approve smart and stable growth within the city,” the city manager noted.
Emily Weaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 910-230-2028.