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June 5, 2007     Cape Gazette
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June 5, 2007

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= CAPE GAZETTE - Tuesday, June 5-- Thursday, June 7, 2007 - 13 i . Legislators back right to choose sewer provider By Rachel Swick Cape Gazette staff When municipalities expand sewer service outside town boundaries, some property own- ers could be forced to accept serv- ice they don't want. That's why Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany I y .......... BdU 1, bit b llt i:tUtllUltTU OtIIULC Bill 77 to protect property own- ers. But the towns of Lewes and Milton, among others, don't agree that there is a problem. Bunting said he proposed the wastewater bill at the request of farming groups and property own- ers, who were afraid they would lose their right to choose sewer service when municipalities expand into their area. System Continued from page 1 " Mecham said.the bill should be amended so as not to penalize Lewes' present and potential future customers or those in other municipalities that have devel- oped comp/'ehensive plans based on guidance from the state. Sussex County has given Lewes permission to provide wastewater utility service to areas outside city limits but which could in the future be annexed by the city. The board is awaiting a George Miles & Buhr engineering study scheduled for completion at the end of May, proyiding dtailed information on the expanded wastewater service area the Lewes utility provider has been authorized to serve. Mecham said areas northwest of Lewes adjacent to New Road would be served by the board and a small area just off Old Orchard Road between New Road and Savannah Road would be served by the county on one side of the road and by the BPW on the other. He said the county and BPW each made plans for capital improvements needed to service the area. "Private property rights are a hallmark of our democracy," said Bunting. "One of the most basic of these rights is the principle that no one, whether it be a private company or a municipality, should be able to make decisions regarding private property with- uut ;xvJu; ul Ftupzty uwul a chance to have a say." Bunting said he created the bill after receiving complaints from worried landowners who were feeling pressured to join munici- pal sewer expansions. Many of them had a working septic system and did not want to pay the fees associated with hooking up to a sewer system, said Bunting. He said property owners should be Mecham said county-owned wastewater systems are unaffect- ed by he proposed legislation even though areas have been delineated where it intends to pro- vide wastewater services. "But that isn't in question at all, it's strictly about the municipali- ties," Mecham said. He said it is his belief that aAis- agreement between nonmunicipal providers Tidewater Utilities and Artesian Water is at the core of the issue "Municipalities such as Lewes who try to do everything right, stand a real risk of being penal- ized for that." Mecham said. He said companies such as Tidewater and Artesian can nego- tiate deals with developers to pro- vide services, which only requires that a few parties agree. .... "We're not talking about hun- dreds of votes, there's one proper- ty owner or one developer," Mecham said. He said the number of waste- water customers the BPW could eventually serve is more than dou- ble the 3,000 customers now con- nected to the system. He said one of the design crite- ria for the $12.3 million waste- water treatment plant expansion under construction is not only its able to choose whether to accept sewer service. "It is absolutely true that democracy can be both unruly and inefficient. Dictatorship, by con- trast, is said to be very efficient. Yet, when given a choice, people I(eep opting for democracy," said Biiiiiiiig. octmtc ot 77 is designed to undo a provision of state law that my colleagues and I find very undemocratic. It gives towns the power to establish themselves as the sole supplier of wastewater services to areas they designate- as their territory, whether or not those areas are located in town limits. They can do this whether or not the owners of properties outside town limits initial expansion from treating 750,000 gallons of wastewater per day to 1.5 million gallons per day, but also the ability to expand by another 750,000 gallons as area growth demands, pushing total treatment capacity to 2.25 million gallons per day. "A certain amount of invest- ment has been made to accommo- date that possible expansion. It's not significant but some has been made," he said. Mecham said the Sussex County Association of Towns has requested to meet with the gover- nor to appeal reconsideration of S.B. 77. Those discussions could take place at the association's executive meeting scheduled for early this month. Mecham said he finds it ironic that only municipalities in Sussex County would be seriously affect: ed by the proposed legislation. "The counties to the north are divided into county (wastewater) districts, and it's not an issue for a lot of folks. But here, where we're still in the process of identifying potential service areas, is where we're having the biggest risk," Mecham said. Contact Henry J. Evans Jr. at hevans@capegazette, com. agree to it." Other sponsors on the bill include Rep. Gerald Hocker, R- Ocean View, Rep. Joe Booth. R- Georgetown and Sen. Gary Simpson. R-Milford. Simpson said he has received a letter from the town of Milton and a Icttcl fzum Sussex County Association of Towns, both- opposing Senate Bill 77, which would require property-owner permission before a town expand- ing its sewer system could include that property. Milton is currently negotiating with Tidewater Utilities to build a new sewer plant on land that is to be annexed into the town. But the system will also be capable of providing service to areas current- ly outside town limits, raising concerns of outlying property owners. These property owners are currently on septic systems, which are not failing. They may want to remain on their own sys- tems and not be forced to join a municipal system "They said these bills infringe on home rule and are in opposi- tion of the governor's Livable Delaware program," said Simpson. "They wish to have a meeting with Sussex County leg- islators." No meeting date has been set. The letters were received after SB 77 was passed 18-0 in the Senate. Seilttte Bill 52, similar to SB 77, was also passed to restrict water providers from expanding without consent from landowners. "I don't know if I would have voted any differently," said Simpson. Lewes is one of the towns opposing SB 77, stating that it could hurt the sewer system in the town. But, Simpson disagrees. "I don't think it will affect Lewes," said Simpson. "They have municipal sewer that they've spent $30 to $35 million on over the last several years. There's not going to be a private wastewater company that can even compete with that. I don't see how it will affect them at all realistically because they've already invested in their system." Continued on page 14 FREEDOM! Live beyond others' predetermined boundaries, $limtlm Ju,,COMFORT,00 NO MONEY DOWN MORTGAGES! 100% - Stated Income/Stated Assets on primary, 2nd homes, YES, I:Yl:N INVESTMENT 100% LTY Products to $1,400,000 Other programs up to $8,000,000 0 Rates as low as 1 /o...InvestYour Savings RATES ARE ON THE REFINANCE YOUR // ADJUSTAB State ] " 1420 Coastal Highway, I Mort oa oe I owned omrat, o,1.,,.,.'. Licensed Broker: DE, PA and MD 3 Owned & Operated by Delaware's Business Woman of the Year