Archive for Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Halt put on future subdivisions

October 18, 2000

A moratorium on future subdivisions in Baldwin has been set by the City Council, but city officials don't expect that to have much of an effect on the current building market.

City officials say they can issue about 220 building permits before the wastewater treatment plant reaches its capacity, and nearly that many residential lots have been platted and approved by the council.

"We don't think this will necessarily put a crunch on any developer," said City Administrator Larry Paine. "I just don't think it is fair to a developer (with a new subdivision) to have him go through the motions, but have no place to put him."

Paine said the moratorium should not be needed past 2003, or until the capacity can be increased at the wastewater treatment plant. He said city officials will learn how that capacity should be increased and how long it will take from BG Consultants, an engineering firm that conducted a study of the treatment plant. A report from that study is expected within the next month.

Terry McKinney, city utility director, said early indications show treatment plant improvements could be operational by late 2002. However, city officials want to monitor the plant's capacity as connections from new homes are added, and Paine said permits will be "rationed." Those rations are yet to be determined, and will be based on the report, but Paine said if the project is expected to take two years then the city might limit building permits to 100 a year.

"By having it regulated, we can see how the sewer plant is doing," Paine said.

Paine doesn't expect that many building permits will be needed each year anyway. The city has issued a few less than 60 building permits so far this year, and Paine doesn't expect that number to change drastically in the next few years.

"We will be declaring to the development market that we have to control access for a period of time," Paine said. "I don't think this year or next year will be a problem. The biggest problem will come when we get to 95 percent capacity and we are still waiting on construction."

Last year, the KDHE said Baldwin's treatment plant could serve a population of 4,230 people. City officials estimated the city would reach that number with about 220 more homes based on four people living in each residence.

"There are some unknowns in that," said McKinney, who mentioned the numbers were conservative and how even a jump in Baker enrollment could make a difference.

Dave Hill, of Hilco Mortgage and Mid-America Bank, agreed that more than 200 lots was a lot to market over two or three years. He came to the meeting with concerns about the city's plan to ration building permits.

"There isn't a problem with these developers getting their building permits," Paine said. "We should have the capacity for everything that has been approved."

Paine said the moratorium is meant to limit applications for new subdivisions, not to place a limit on the development of current subdivisions. Paine said city officials feared if the city did not establish a moratorium on subdivision applications, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment would.

"We have reached on paper the number of which we can't go over," Paine said. "We feel we must act before KDHE acts for us."

In a related issue, Ted Brecheisen Jr. and Gene Nelson moved that the city consider requiring future subdivisions to connect to the city sewer, therefore not allowing septic systems or lagoons.

Council member Joe Salb, a developer, abstained from both votes. Members Marilyn Pearse and Lee Whaley are on vacation and did not attend the meeting.

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