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Council OKs sewer connection limits

February 02, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution that will set limits on new connections to the city's sewer system, and therefore limit commercial and residential development and expansion of city limits.

The measure was in reaction to a consent judgment - a legally binding agreement - between the city and the Maryland Department of the Environment signed in January.

The judgment imposed restrictions as a result of repeated wastewater spills into Antietam Creek and other problems over the past five years.

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The council approved the measure in a 4-0 vote in a special voting session Tuesday. Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh was absent due to illness.

The so-called Interim Sewer Capacity Allocation Program is only a short-term solution, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said after Tuesday's meeting.

"It provides a nice foundation for the (final) sewer capacity management plan" required in the consent judgment, Zimmerman said. "We'll use that as a starting point."

Until further improvements are completed, the city can allocate only 120,000 gallons per day of sewer capacity per year, or the equivalent of adding 600 new homes to the system.

City officials have said that while that limit is comparable to limits in past years, it could disrupt plans for speedier growth that is expected in coming years.

The plans change the schedule that developers must follow to gain approval for the building process by placing the allocation of sewer capacity earlier in that process.

The interim plan limits residential developers who had not received sewer allocation approval to building 25 homes for the duration of the interim plan. Those developers that received approval are limited to building 40 homes.

The interim plan, which is an extra step the city has taken beyond the consent judgment, also divides sewer capacity allocation among nine priorities, five of which are for new projects, and four of which are for existing projects, setting numeric limits for each. The limits address projects both inside and outside city limits.

One developer who came before the council Tuesday - the first to do so after the measure's approval - met difficulty in going forward with plans for a 450-home housing development.

Kenneth Jordan, who plans to develop a 54-acre area off Haven Road and annex the land into the city, said he was caught off guard by the new restrictions during a discussion on his development plan, but he accepts the fact that there are problems.

"I'm a big boy and I guess I have to face it," Jordan said.

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