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Flowery Branch to phase in water, sewer rates for apartment complex

Council votes to relieve its biggest customer from 143 percent increase

POSTED: October 19, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — The Flowery Branch City Council voted Wednesday to phase in over a year new sewer and water rates for TreePark apartments off Thurmon Tanner Parkway.

With a hike in rates this summer, the complex "had a utility bill for water and sewer that rose (about) 143 percent, which was obviously quite a shock to their budget," City Manager Bill Andrew told the council.

Plus, the 456-unit complex runs on a calendar-year budget, unlike the city, which has a fiscal year of July through June.

"We’re basically cutting into their budget structure with this change coming in July," Andrew said.

TreePark approached the city seeking relief.

In urging the council’s consideration of that, Andrew said "they are our biggest customer, and they bring a lot of secondary benefits to the community. It can certainly be said they are as good as you’re going to get for an apartment development.

"... It’s been a great addition to the city, and it can certainly be said they brought Stonebridge Village (shopping center) to the community sooner with having that many units and being located there."

Stonebridge, a center of commercial boom for Flowery Branch, is located nearly a mile away on Spout Springs and Hog Mountain roads.

The council ended up voting 3-2 on a resolution approving a new structure of water and sewer rates, adding a tier for multifamily residential water and sewer users.

Easing off the utility payments will cost the city $40,000, which Andrew said could be covered in the city’s $244,876 contingency fund.

"We would only see that loss occurring this fiscal year," Andrew said. "Next year, we would be basically balanced in our costs and revenues with this development."

Kim Watkins of Wilwat Properties, which manages TreePark, said a check of area apartments showed that residents in Flowery Branch and Oakwood complexes are paying $23 to $35 monthly for water.

"When we saw $55, we knew we had to check it out," he said.

Council members Allen Bryans Sr., Pat Zalewski and Mary Jones voted for the resolution.

Chris Fetterman and Craig Lutz voted against it.

"The argument here is that the new rates were difficult to swallow," Lutz said. "But they were difficult to swallow for everybody."

Fetterman said after the meeting that he believes the city needs "to have one rate based on people who live in the city limits and one based on people who live outside the city limits, and (we need to) quit discriminating against when you moved into the city."

The city has rate tiers for residential water and sewer users who moved in the city before and after June 2000.

Andrew has said that charging new residents more for water service is justified because the city has made costly capital investments in water infrastructure since June 2000 to accommodate new residents.

In other business, the council gave its first OK to the rezoning and annexation of 2.83 acres at 4690 Holland Dam Road, a site slightly larger than the Hampton Inn & Suites property next to it.

The applicant, Robert Bozzone of Flowery Branch, has indicated interest in developing a hotel/restaurant there, Planning Director James Riker has said.

The 84-unit, five-story Hampton Inn is under construction and could be opened in November, hotel owner Yogesh Patel has said.

Bozzone also got the council’s first nod on a rezoning and annexation of 5.67 acres at 4847 Old Orr Road, behind a gas station off Hog Mountain Road.

The site now has agricultural and residential designations. Bozzone is seeking a highway business designation.

Bozzone is proposing 60,000 square feet of office space and a 70,000-square-foot self-storage building.

A final vote on the applications would take place at the council’s next meeting, set for Nov. 5.



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