03/10/13 — Walnut Creek had sewer plan

View Archive

Walnut Creek had sewer plan

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on March 10, 2013 1:50 AM

Full Size


This is the entrance to the Village of Walnut Creek. Some village residents are fighting against a sewer expansion proposal.

The plan's tattered corners shows its age, but besides its condition, it could pass for a current map of Walnut Creek.

The shopping center and inn plotted on it don't exist and some of the roads don't begin or end quite where the map shows they should, but all-in-all, it's evidence that the vision of Conway Rose has become reality.

Well, most of it.

With Sewer Project No. 1 typed neatly at its center, the map shows the golf course, dozens of homes and a layout for a sewer system that runs toward U.S. 70, just as the Walnut Creek Village Council has proposed.

A sewage pump station is even shown very near to where the current council is considering placing one -- on Councilman Tom Shaw's property on what is now Walnut Creek Drive.

Shaw didn't own the property when the plan was put together and approved by the N.C. State Board of Health's sanitary engineering division on Oct. 28, 1965, though. In fact, the entire village was just a dream then.

Frances Whitfield, who has vehemently opposed the council's sewer expansion plan, knows the plans well -- her husband, Claude, drafted them.

"They had these grand plans. They just didn't have the money to complete them," she said. "At the time the plans were done, there was no infrastructure."

But as time has passed and the vision has grown into a village, the cost for bringing system-wide sewer to the area has grown, as well.

"The plan was to develop this sewer system first," said Mrs. Whitfield, who served on the council in the 1990s. "But coming and doing it 40 or 50 years later there's a traditional amount of additional cost."

Estimates from Cox-Edwards Co. of Goldsboro, the village's hired engineering firm, show the price for the installation of sewer lines to each resident will cost $3.32 million.

To pay for the project, the village will be performing assessments on all properties not currently on the sewer system -- about 55 percent of the village -- at a cost of $8,500 per property.

With nearly 250 lots due for assessment, residents will collectively cover nearly two-thirds of the cost of the project through the assessments, with the rest of the cost covered by hook-up fees, which the village has estimated will average between $1,100 and $1,500 for each property, depending on how far away septic tank conduits are from the proposed sewer line.

Residents opposed to the sewer expansion project have noted that cost estimates from plumbers show hook-up prices could be as high as $6,000 if septic tanks are in the backyard, although the development's original restrictive covenants specified that septic tanks should be placed in the front yard.

Opponents turned out en masse to public meetings in January and February, voicing their criticism of the sewer expansion. They pointed out that well-maintained septic tanks don't pose environmental risks, noted Shaw's property and the possibility of the village purchasing his land for the system, which is wildly unpopular both because of cost and because of what they feel was a heavy-handed approach to announcing it.

"I'm not against the sewer," Mrs. Whitfield said. "I'm coming against the way they've handled this thing to come along and cram this down our throats."

Despite the nearly half-century-old plans and the village's sewer purchases in the mid-2000s, she says the project came about "all of a sudden," pointing out that there was no mention of the expansion when she was managing the sewer system on a volunteer basis in the 1990s.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," she said. "Don't require me to pay $8,500 for something I don't need."

Indeed, her sentiments echoed those of Larry Kammler, who shared his opposition to the sewer project at the Feb. 27 public hearing.

"We don't want you to try to make Walnut Creek a city. We want our neighborhood back," he told the council.

Mrs. Whitfield said the council's only job was to be good stewards of tax money.

"When I was on the Village Council we managed the village assets," she said. "These people seem to be reinventing the wheel.

"We don't want them reinventing wheels out here."

The Village Council is expected to vote on the sewer expansion at its March 25 meeting, which will begin at 7:30 p.m.