By DOUG NURSE www.ajc.com
The Milton City Council has decided to approach the question of crafting a sewer policy like a chef approaching an onion – one layer at a time.
On Monday, the Milton City Council peeled the first layer of what will be an ongoing effort to sort out which properties can have sewer and under what circumstances.
Unlike most communities, Milton has used sewer – or lack thereof – as a growth management tool. Sewer, many argue, will bring density which will despoil the semi-agrarian grandeur of their slice of paradise.
Fulton County approved many properties for sewer before Milton became a city on Dec. 1, 2006. Many property owners have permission from the county to hook up to its public sewer system. Some have started construction. All they need is city permission to connect.
But the community's sewer-phobia made the city hall staff reluctant to give the property owners and developers the go-ahead to the next phase. In all, about 30 projects needed to be resolved. City officials whispered they feared lawsuits awaited.
The City Council on Monday decided to focus on the immediate problem.
It set a mini-policy allowing projects to proceed within Fulton County's map of sewer service if they have land development permits and have actually started building.
And, as with another previous case of similar circumstances, the City Council emphasized its decision was not a precedent.About a dozen speakers in the audience of about 45 took the lectern to argue for or against the changes.
Resident Curtis Mills reminded the City Council that a city-sponsored survey showed that an overwhelming majority of people wanted no sewer expansion in Milton. Francisca Lindon fretted that the city could easily end up on a slippery slope if the council didn't deliberate carefully.
Developer Sean Connelly said no one wants to go to court, but at some point, some developers may feel they have no choice. Developer John Adams cautioned the council to remember all the people employed by jobs that development creates.
The next layer to be peeled at a future meeting deals with projects with all the appropriate approvals, but that haven't started moving dirt. Then there are other layers, such as projects in the sewer service map that haven't received appropriate permits, and so on.