Leader Blues

Friday, June 13, 2008

TOP STORY > >Commission opposes more development

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The Hwy. 5 area around Greystone in Cabot is generally considered the city’s growth area for both residential and commercial development. The only problem is: the 10-inch force sewer main that serves the area is too small, so the water and wastewater commission opposes any more development.

“This commission has drawn the line on Greystone. It’s already at capacity,” Bill Cypert, secretary of the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commis-sion told landowners Randall and Tori Uhiren, who hope to sell property on Hwy. 5 for an assisted-living development.

Cypert, who usually speaks for the commission, said during the regular commission meeting Thursday night that the commission is pro-development, but available sewer capacity belongs to the developers of Greystone, who paid for it.

And the commission is committed to preserving it for their use.

The commission also opposes the private sewer-treatment plant the assisted-living developers have proposed, because they say there is no guarantee it will be maintained to an acceptable standard.

Cypert told the Uhirens that a 30-inch gravity main is planned for the area but not for at least three to five years. With an anticipated price tag of $30 million or so, the project cannot be funded without the sewer rate increase the commission has talked about for two years.

Josh Minton, the engineer on the planned project, countered that the state regulates private treatment plants as closely as public ones, so the facility would be maintained.

He also suggested that the developers would be willing to sign an agreement to close the plant as soon as city sewer became available.

At that, the proposal became more palatable to the commission.

“I think we might be able to look at it and see how it will fit into our plans,” Cypert said.

The proposed development of five, 10,000-square-foot buildings would house 90 residents.

Cypert and Gary Walker, commission vice-chairman, said there were other options, like buying capacity from those who hold claim to it.

“There are options to be looked at here,” Walker said, but he warned that the commission would have to be involved in any deal made between developers.

Although the proposed 30-inch sewer main is part of the commission master plan for the area, the commission also has considered building a second sewer-treatment plant for the area, but that would be just as costly.

Although water rates in Cabot are adequate for maintenance and operation as well as growth, sewer rates are so low that Cypert has described the financial situation of that utility as “hand to mouth.”

Without a rate increase, no major sewer construction is likely.

Randall Uhiren told the commissioners that although they consider Hwy. 5 a no-growth area, the city council doesn’t share that opinion as evidenced by the fact that property there is being annexed into the city.

If the city hadn’t annexed their property, the commission would have had no authority over it and the developers they hope to sell to would have been able to build the sewer treatment plant they need.

“We got annexed into the city and now we’re just sitting there,” he said.