By DOUG NURSE / www.ajc.com / Published on: 07/31/08
The opponents to sewer extension seem to have won a political victory in Milton by forcing Monday's meeting on sewer policy to be a work session instead of a called meeting.
The significance is that City Council members don't vote during work sessions, unless they suspend their rules. The council was split 3-3 until Mayor Joe Lockwood returned from out of town and backed a work session.
The City Council is struggling to come up with a sewer policy. Some don't want sewer because they fear it could lead to dense development. Others argue that sewer in commercial areas doesn't necessary lead to rampant sewer expansion and the city needs the tax revenue. In the meantime, some developments are languishing.
Developers who have projects on hold may interpret the work session as a sign the City Council intends to debate the issue ad nauseum. If that's the conclusion, some may go ahead and sue the city.
To avoid being dragged into court, the City Council must make enough progress to satisfy property owners and builders that a decision isn't far off, Councilwoman Karen Thurman said. Developers have complained that while the city dithers, they're paying loans and interest without any assurance that they'll actually be able to sell or build on their land.
On the other hand, leaders don't want to set bad policy that will haunt the city. There is great concern in the community that sewer invites density, which they say would spoil the rural character of Milton that they treasure.
On Monday the City Council will first take up the question of properties that have permits, and sewer available, some of which fall outside Fulton County's sewer service area. There is some confusion about where those boundaries are. The council also may try to clarify its agreement with Fulton County.