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Sewer changes may lure developers to Flowery Branch

POSTED: January 13, 2009 12:04 a.m.

Flowery Branch is looking to tweak its sewer reservation policy, allowing developers to get a full refund on capacity after holding it for two years rather than a partial one, as the current policy states.

The hope is the revised policy might draw potential developers back to the South Hall city.

"It’s an easier way to entice people to buy into the system if they know they can get 100 percent of their money back," City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Flowery Branch City Council is set to discuss the matter in a called meeting set for 3 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 5517 Main St.

At one time, the city had "several developers talking to us about projects," Andrew said.

"We had projects under way that are no longer under way and subdivisions that have just stopped. Commercial sites are no longer being looked at on a monthly basis by people all over the Southeast."

The city still is growing, as can be seen particularly east of Interstate 985 off Spout Springs Road. Also, bucking an area trend, restaurants are opening in the city and grading is under way for a Walgreens pharmacy off Spout Springs and Hog Mountain roads.

Before the economic downturn that has afflicted the country, "we felt we were on a curve to see our (sewer) capacity run out sooner than later," Andrew said.

Developers had to reserve capacity for two years, paying the full amount of $22 per gallon in advance.

"If they wanted to hold (sewer) for a third year, they could pay as if they were using 20 percent of that capacity every month," Andrew said.

If developers decided to give up the reservation, they would have gotten back 80 percent of their costs.

That was because they "were holding a real value from the city for that period of time," Andrew said. "It would have kept us from assigning that (capacity) to someone else."

Now, amid a deepening recession, "we no longer feel that need to be so tight with our sewer," he said. "... People aren’t taking up the capacity as fast as we had anticipated."

Under the policy change, the city would keep only the interest accrued on the reservation money, which the city keeps in a certificate of deposit, Andrew said.

He added that the move might also "enable us to gain more capital for future expansion of our plant."

Flowery Branch is moving along with eventual plans to expand capacity at its sewer plant to 2.05 million gallons per day from 1 million gallons.

As part of the pursuits, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has just concluded that the city’s use of spray fields in expanded sewer operations will "create an economic hardship" for the city and that "there are sound, technical reasons for expanding the discharge into Lake Lanier."

The city’s plans hinge largely on a March 17 public vote on whether to extend Hall County’s special purpose local option sales tax, which is ending this year.

It hopes to capture $2.5 million of that revenue, with $1.3 million going toward a sewer lift station at the Cinnamon Cove condominium complex at 6500 Gaines Ferry Road and a force main line.

The lift station would replace a privately run sewer plant now serving the 1970s-era complex and connect with the city’s expanded plant on Atlanta Highway.



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