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After significant debate and discussion Thursday morning, Wilson councilmen opted to instruct staff to negotiate with a developer interested in connecting to the sewer system despite not being in the city limits or extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The development in question is at the intersection of U.S. 264 and U.S. 264 Alternate where the owners plan to develop a 70-home neighborhood in the lot adjacent to the highway-facing property. The city has a sewer line near the property that services Sims and there is available capacity, but city policy has dictated owners interested in connecting to sewer or water services have to be approved for annexation.
"I'd suggest to you that this is a planning decision, more than a utility decision," said City Manager Grant Goings. "We would have roughly an extra $40,000 a year in wastewater treatment revenue, but if you look at maintenance and everything, you could call the revenue a wash."
Goings said the heart of the issue for him is working with the owner - who also controls the lot adjacent to the highway - noting that in a few decades, the city limits would be nearer to U.S. 264 and the area would be people's first impression of Wilson.
"The only thing strategic about this location is it is the first impression coming from Raleigh and from a planning perspective alone, it is the city's only benefit," Wilson Chief Planning and Development Officer Rodger Lentz said.
Councilmen James Johnson and Donald Evans made a motion to deny the connection, noting the bad precedent it would set for other property owners wanting to receive city services without paying city taxes. The motion was defeated and the discussion continued.
The land in question reportedly was annexed into the city around 2000, but de-annexed shortly thereafter with Johnson noting the council didn't have the full picture when the original decision was made. Lentz said annexing the property into the city now was not a worthwhile endeavor because of the other services - such as police and fire - required within city limits.
Annexation further doesn't make sense since the developers reportedly plan to use well water for the neighborhood, but are pushing for sewer access since a septic system requires larger lot sizes for each house.
Tom Corbett, who represents the property owner, explained that if approved for a sewer connection, the development would be willing to build it according to city specifications for streets as well as curb and gutters. The developer also would be responsible for constructing a pump station for the sewer.
"Our future is now and sometimes when we analyze what do now, we are not thinking 10 or 20 years down the line," said Councilman Michael Bell. "I think it is more prudent, after I've listened to the presentation, to connect to the sewer system. Why slow down growth? I believe it is imperative that we continue with development."
Bell made a motion, which Councilman A.P. Coleman seconded, to negotiate with the developer regarding buffers and landscaping along the highway in exchange for sewer access. If a deal is struck, it would require further approval from the city council.