(10/28) Developers from Ryan Homes and residents of one of its subdivisions have asked commissioners for a second time to waive $14,000 in water and sewer surcharges for new houses.
Residents said eliminating the fees will lower new home prices, allowing Ryan Homes to complete the town's Brookfield neighborhood. This would maintain neighboring property values and increase the town's tax base, said resident Frank Palik.
Palik spoke on behalf of more than 20 neighborhood residents in attendance at last week's town meeting, saying those who buy new houses shouldn't be forced to pay for a past lack of sewer system maintenance.
"I don't think any of us want the sewer system to fail; we're all part of the community," Palik said, but added that builders like Ryan Homes can't be competitive if their home prices have to cover such high water and sewer fees.
The surcharges were imposed on new houses several years ago to fund repairs to the town's sewer system. Following several significant sewer spills in 2003, the town signed a consent order with the state Department of the Environment that limited the number of new homes that could tap into the system and forced the town to find a way to stop the
spills. Though conditions of the order have been met, town officials say the system is still in need of sewer line repairs and permanent measures to keep outside water from infiltrating the system, especially during heavy rainfall.
Palik suggested the town bill residents a flat rate for each gallon of clean water used and wastewater treated. Such a system would pay for the water itself, provide additional money for maintenance, and eliminate the need for surcharges on new development, Palik said.
Town manager Dave Haller said that while Palik's proposal does not take into account costs like system depreciation and operations, he and other town staff are reviewing the current fees and will discuss other options.
"I think their interest is sincere," Haller said of the Brookfield residents.
In September, developers from Ryan Homes and R&J Builders, who are developing the town's Southgate neighborhood, asked for and were denied a year-long waiver of the surcharges. Commissioners cited a tight budget and the strain new homes put on the town's water and sewer systems.
Ryan Homes settled on sales of eight houses in 2007, but none in the past few months, according to representative Jerry Grable. Forty-eight lots in the Brookfield subdivision remain undeveloped or unsold.
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