FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch City Council gave its first OK Wednesday to changing its sewer reservation policy.
Under the amendment, developers would get a full refund on capacity after holding it for two years rather than a partial one, as the current policy states.
"What we’re wanting to accomplish here is basically a reaction to the economic conditions we’re seeing ... that not only has slowed development to some degree but also has freed up sewer capacity that we think could be reserved under a better system," City Manager Bill Andrew told the council.
Second and final approval of the change could come at the council’s next meeting at 9:30 a.m. this coming
Wednesday at City Hall, 5517 Main St.
Currently, developers have to reserve capacity for two years, paying the full amount of $22 per gallon in advance.
If developers decided to give up the reservation, they get back 80 percent of their costs.
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.
City officials hope the change will not only lure developers, who were regularly checking out the city before the economic downturn, but increase the pool of money needed to eventually expand the city’s sewer treatment plant on Atlanta Highway.
The matter spurred limited discussion among council members.
"This particular ordinance should be a demonstration ... that our city wants to work with developers here in the future," Councilman Craig Lutz said of the measure.
"By taking risk out of development in the city, I hope (the change) will attract more opportunities to the city."
Flowery Branch has eventual plans to expand capacity at its sewer plant to 2.05 million gallons per day from 1 million gallons.
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."
Crucial to the city’s plans is a March 17 public vote on whether to extend Hall County’s special purpose local option sales tax, which ends this year.
Flowery Branch hopes to use $1.3 million of its $2.5 million from that tax for sewer system improvements. Ultimately, an expanded plant could cost the city $10 million to $14 million.