he Weddington Planning Board vote was 4-2, better than last time, but still no cigar as Infinity Partners (aka IB Development) continues to inch forward toward the finish-line.
In a three hour meeting, which began by moving to Weddington High School, just to seat the 130 plus people who had come to watch the proceedings and ended with a vote on the four ‘findings of fact’ followed with a negative recommendation to council.
The Woods’ presentation team spent much of the time outlining the changes made to the site plan, in response to objections raised from the previous Planning Board rejection. They moved the location of the plant and holding tanks to the center of the development, underneath the amenity center, created two wet-weather holding ponds instead of one and guaranteed the Planning Board member who pressed the issue, that ‘there will be no odors emanating from the plant’.
The parade of professionals included engineers from McKim & Creed, a former NC Department of Water Quality (DWQ) official, a lawyer (of course), a landscape engineer, land appraiser and Philip Walton, IB Development’s point-man. All were well prepared with one exception; but everyone knows property appraisal isn’t an exact science – just look at your county reval.
I found the former DWQ official’s comments remarkable as he related that DWQ would be the agency responsible for oversight of the ‘Utility System Operator’ hired by IB Development to perpetually manage the The Woods Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWW.TP).
You’ll pardon me if I am not overwhelmed with confidence, as it is this same DWQ whose oversight of Union County’s Twelve Mile Waste Water Plant over the years, have resulted in hundreds of thousands in fines for improper discharge, but still the plant operated, expanded and now is running a maximum capacity. I am sure the downstream residents of WWW.TP are much more concerned than I am — they should be.
Neighboring and downstream homeowners have a number of concerns and a ‘surprised’ IB Development as gone to great length and expense to answer and quash. After all, should the WWW.TP fail to gain approval, then either a gravity-feed sewer to Twelve-Mile plant through Aero Plantation will have to be built or the developer have to revert to his original Weddington plat authorization of 204 homes that only 100 or so can actually be built for septic use.
What was plain from the presentation was an inherent belief that water reclamation technology is viable and ready for wider use. Indeed, who can argue that reclaimed water can serve many of the irrigation needs around the county. The ‘Purple’ pipe solution is an issue that County Commissioner Lanny Openshaw has spearheaded as a means to reduce outflow from the Twelve Mile Plant and provide a water source to area golf courses and the common areas for large sub-divisions.
Using ‘reclaimed water’ for The Woods’ home irrigation is cause for much of the concern, as is runoff into streams, ground water contamination and the anticipated by many, ‘eventual’ accident.
Also of interest, is the capacity of the WWW.TP, which according to the engineers is capable of processing 100,000 gallons per day, or 480 gallons per day per household at build-out. IB’s Phillip Walton testified that Union County Public Works had allocated 39,000 gallons of flow per day, had the subdivision been allowed to connect to county utilities. If DPW number is accurate, it leaves 60% of the WWW.TP under-utilized. What to do with the excess capacity? Sell it, of course. I suppose eventually we may have a Town of Weddington Public Works Department.
And what of Union County Public Works?
As mismanaged and abused as DPW has been by current and past county commissioners, Union County residents have a very large investment in our water and waste water treatment plants. If do-it-yourself waste-water plants become commonplace, it will undercut the county’s system and increase the costs to a static customer base – defeating the purpose of an ‘Enterprise’ model the county adopted 20 years ago.
The ‘Misinformation’ misinformation
One of the most ironic elements of the ‘Woods’ development process has been the exclamations and complaints that ‘opposition’ homeowners and residents are ‘misinformed or persuaded by misinformation’. Almost everyone with a stake in the Woods being approved has made this claim, from Mayor Anderson to Infinity Partner’s chief Ashley Campbell.
Why is that? Why are people misinformed? Could it be that the Town of Weddington made little or no special effort to inform the public as to the nature of sewer plant plans before-hand. Or could it be that Weddington callously permitted a subdivision for septic, that NEVER had any intention of actually going that route? At what point between asking Weddington for 204 lots with septic and Mr. Walton announcing to the public that only 100 lots could actually be developed with septic, did Weddington drop the ball. The final responsibility for permitting a subdivision is the Town Council.
Tell me, would the Woods have been given a preliminary plat if the Planning Board knew about the sewer plant up front? It would have changed the whole character of the process. Had Weddington’s Town Council and Planning Board known up front of about the ‘Sewer Plant’ plans, then the Woods’ preliminary plat would have be contingent in receiving a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Woods Waste Water Treatment Plant as well. But now, plated with a fictitious septic plan, the CUP it’s just a matter of time and pressure. This was, in my opinion an unadulterated deception.
In fact, if you consider the letter from the county informing Infinity Partners that Union County Commissioners would have to approve a pump station connection (which they declined), it would give the appearance that Infinity Partner’s whole strategy has been based a series of fall back plans. The long protracted process with the county followed by a very quick ‘new’ plan for sewer package plant.
But, lets get back to the ‘Misinformation’ claims. What an outrageous charge and totally false. The pattern of misinformation has nothing to do with the plant characteristics, but all to do with keeping the public in the dark prior to the first Weddington Planning Board meeting. Very few people knew about the sewer plant or DWQ permit to build it. Tipped off neighbors had to go Mooresville to get copies of the ‘plant’ design and ask the Town for a CUP application. Furthermore, I’ve been told that adjoining neighbors did not receive letters of notification either.
Oh what a wicked webs we weave…
On May 14th, five days before the Weddington Planning Board met for the first time to consider the CUP, I emailed Infinity Partner’s public relations representative and asked for information about the proposal.
On May 15th, this was the answer I received:
Infinity Partners is currently exploring available wastewater treatment options. Because no single treatment option is yet established as a fact, we believe it would be inappropriate to comment on what is purely speculative at present time. As soon as facts do become available, we will be happy to provide you with that information and answer any questions you may have.
Misinformation?? Four days before they are presenting to the Planning Board they are claiming ‘No single treatment option is yet established as a fact’.
Why the deception?
Perhaps Infinity Partners thought they could fly under the radar. Many residents now believe that at least two members of Weddington’s Council has more than a passing interest in seeing the plant permitted.
The ‘misinformation’ Infinity Partners complains about refers to public concerns over the characteristics of the sewer plant as it relates to heath, safety, odor and environmental issues. Making a 180 degree change in direction after the Weddington Planning Board turned down the first plan unanimously, Infinity has become a plethora of information, sending out 20,000 mailers to local residents and setting up a website designed to answer questions, dispel any fears and remove objections to the technology.
To Be or Not
The question remains. Is it in the best interest of Weddington, the other 13 municipalities and Union County to allow a self-contained sewer solution? Shouldn’t the expensive lessons learned through past experience of Union County package plants be applied? Let’s have a dialog before jumping in with both feet.
I do have another concern, I haven’t heard address hereto-now. How much will homeowners have to pay for this sewer/irrigation service so thoughtfully provided with a new home in the Woods?
I know from attending Commissioner Meetings, that Union County residents, whose sewer service is provided by Heeter Utility, come before the commissioners from time to time to plead for the County to take over Heeter because of the ‘exorbitant’ cost ($60 a month) for sewer service.
Finally, are the citizens of Weddington going to liable for the permitting of this plant, if years from now, lawsuits pile up for one reason or another. You may recall, that just across the border, Charlotte paid out in excess of $12 million dollars to homeowners whose homes where built in a flood plain. The permitting agency bares responsibility, which by extension means taxpayers.