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City enacts fees on water, sewer hookups

January 27, 2006|by DON AINES

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

With the probability of 2,000 or more new homes being built in the next few years, the Martinsburg City Council on Thursday night approved ordinances establishing water and sewer capital improvement fees for new residential and commercial construction.

"It's a growth-related fee structure based on the amount of new construction we have," City Manager Mark Baldwin said of the fees, which start at $1,301 for water service and $2,260 for sewer service on a typical home. The ordinances setting the fees, which still have to be reviewed by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, will take effect for building permits issued after the effective date of March 13, he said.

The ordinances also allow for the city to, at some point in the future, go from quarterly to bimonthly billing for sewer and water service, although rates based on usage remain unchanged.

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"We need to make sure the word gets out that this is not an increase in rates," Councilman Donald Anderson said.

In the past four years, Baldwin said the city has annexed approximately 900 acres of land, mostly on the west side of Interstate 81. "We already have two substantial housing developments under way" west of the interstate, he said.

The money collected from the capital improvement fees will be earmarked for future expansions or improvements to the water and sewer systems, Baldwin said. The fee for water capital improvements is less than that for sewer because the city spent about $25 million three years ago on the system, he said.

"We anticipate we'll have a greater cost for sewer improvements in the future than for water," he said.

The improvement fees will apply to vacant lots in the city and any "unserved structure or facility," as well as undeveloped land, according to the ordinance. One property owner said that could adversely affect redevelopment of the downtown.

"As for downtown revitalization, this is going to be another obstacle," said Tim Yates.

"There's nothing we can do to exclude a certain part of town," Mayor George Karos said.

The capital improvement fees vary based on the size of meter serving a property, according to the ordinance. The water system fee schedule runs from $1,301 for a property served by a 5/8-inch meter to $88,800 for an 8-inch compound meter. The sewer capital improvement fee schedule calls for a fee of $1809,800 for a property served by a compound 8-inch meter.

The two developments under way on the west side of I-81 - the Gallery subdivision and Martinsburg Station - combined could create more than 1,700 new homes, Baldwin said. Plans also call for adding up to 300 more homes in the Prentiss Point development and the city planning commission next week will review plans for another development with approximately 200 hones, Baldwin said.

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