The cost of reserving sewer capacity in Flowery Branch will stay at $22 per gallon for all restaurants, including Waffle House.
Waffle House executives asked the Flowery Branch City Council on Friday to let them pay the city’s old commercial sewer reservation fees — $10 per gallon — for a restaurant they proposed to build on McEver Road, because they had expressed interest in the property months before the rates rose 120 percent.
The City Council took no action at a meeting specially called to handle the request, but said a vote to change the rate for one restaurant could open the city up to legal problems with others.
The City Council voted to raise the rate for its sewer fees to $22 per gallon in April. Previously, the city charged $10 — a rate City Manager Bill Andrews said was meant to encourage full-service restaurants to locate in Flowery Branch.
On Friday, Joe Hoffman, director of real estate for Waffle House, asked the council to make an exception for the proposed restaurant because chain executives inquired about the fees in December, when they were substantially lower, during a preliminary market analysis.
Hoffman said the chain’s board voted to approve spending on the start-up of the restaurant based on the $10-per-gallon price. Having to pay the new fee would put the company over its budget in planned spending for the planned McEver Road restaurant near Alberta Car Wash, he said.
"Unlike a developer that can pass on that fee to an end user, we are the end user," Hoffman told the council at the called meeting Friday morning.
He told the council that the chain may not be able to locate or bring about 25 jobs to Flowery Branch if it had to pay the higher fees.
Council members were unrelenting. City Attorney Ron Bennett told the council it would have to vote to reverse its April decision in order to allow Waffle House to reserve sewer under the old fee schedule.
"Once ... you decided as a council to establish a sewer rate system, the council’s obligated to follow that sewer rate system," Bennett said. "We can’t go back now and do it case by case."
Councilman Chris Fetterman told Hoffman that he could have reserved the sewer capacity before the rates were raised in April.
"You kind of missed the window of opportunity, and unfortunately, you know, it’s just kind of tough to undo what’s been done," Fetterman said.
All council members agreed to take no action and said they hoped their stance would not keep Waffle House from coming to Flowery Branch.
"I hate to lose Waffle House, but I don’t see how we could change the situation," Councilman Allen Bryans said.
As the council moved into a closed meeting to discuss real estate acquisition and possible pending litigation, Hoffman said the future is uncertain for the planned restaurant.
When asked if the move would keep the restaurant from locating in Flowery Branch, Hoffman responded: "I don’t know."