August 1, 2008 Update
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
I hope this update finds you and your families well, and I hope that you all are having a great s ummer!
This update is very important.
On Monday, August 4 at 4:00 p.m., the City Council will be having a special called work session to discuss proposed sewer extension in Milton. Click here to download the meeting agenda.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to attend this meeting and express your thoughts to the mayor and council on this important issue. If you are unable to attend this meeting, it is imperative for you to write the mayor and council to tell us how you feel about this issue. Click here for the e-mail addresses of all elected officials. Don't assume that we all know how you feel or that there is enough support on the council to prevent this happening.
How does extension of sewer threaten our city?
The Vision Statement for the City of Milton is "Mi lton is a distinctive community embracing small-town life and heritage while preserving and enhancing our rural character." 86% of the citizens that filled out a recent community survey agree with this Vision Statement. Expansion of sanitary sewer into areas of Milton not currently connected to sewer, i.e. the Etowah River Basin Area, greatly threatens our Vision. Some argue that this is just a "battlecry for the uninformed," that we can control density with zoning. While I don't disagree with the premise that density could, in theory, control density, I am also realistic. One only needs to look at a map of Georgia to quickly realize that, plainly put, sewer + politics = eventual high density development, and consequently, more crime, traffic, and storm water runoff to endanger our already sensitive waterways.
But don't we need more dense, commercial development to keep our property taxes low and expand city services?
Obviously we don't have the expansive park system that Alpharetta has or the expansive city services that Atlanta has; however, Alpharetta and Atlanta don't have Milton's characteristic small town, equestrian qualities either. In fact, recent surveys show that citizens are willing to forego some of those services if doing so keeps Milton the way it is.
I think the rumor that we don't have enough money to survive as a city is interesting to say the least. The Finance Subcommittee of the Steering Committee to form the City of Milton determined that we did have the existing tax base to form our own city and provide the same level of service as Fulton County or even better. If we now have concrete data and studies to show that for whatever reason that's not true, I, as one of the seven elected officials in this city, haven't seen them. In fact, financial modeling by our Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee has not been done yet. Also, if having more commercial development means that property taxes are kept low, then you would think that cities like Atlanta, Alpharetta, Roswell, and Sandy Springs would have lower property taxes. We know, however, that this is clearly not the case. Some of the most densely populated, densely commercial cities in the Atlanta area have some of the highest property taxes of any cities in GA. In contrast, some of the less densely populated and less densely commercial cities have some of the lowest taxes around.No doubt that if we allow our city to be like "Every Other City, USA," property values in Milton will not be as solid as they would if we take proactive steps to ensure that we now and forever more will remain unique.
What are our existing policies and laws that address sewer expansion?
As many of you already know, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution on July 19,2006 reaffirming a March 1995 resolution and policy. This policy, which was later adopted as an ordinance by the City of Milton and serves as our current "sewer policy," is known as the "No Interbasin Transfer Policy." Click here for a copy of the "No Interbasin Transfer" Policy/Resolution. The term "no interbasin transfer," in this case, applies specifically to wastewater and means you cannot take wastewater from properties located in one basin, i.e. the Etowah River Basin, and pump it to treatment plants in another basin, i.e. the Big Creek Basin.
The full title of this resolution is, "Resolution to Reaffirm Policy Prohibiting Expansion of the Big Creek and John's Creek Sewage Treatment Plants to Accommodate Portions of the Etowah River Basin and to Prohibit Interbasin Transfers to the Big Creek and John's Creek Treatment Plants." As the title indicates, this resolution and policy prohibits expansion of the Big Creek and John's Creek sewage treatment plants to accommodate portions of the Etowah River Basin and construction of pumping stations or interbasin transfers from the Etowah Basin Area to the Big Creek or John's Creek treatment plants. The stated purpose of this resolution is, "to ensure that growth and development in the Etowah Basin Area does not impact adversely upon or require expansion of either of these treatment plants and that the low-density and rural character of that portion of the Basin Area that lies in Fulton County is preserved."There are a limited number of exceptions to this policy listed in the resolution itself. These include certain land lots west of State Route 9, located between Windward Parkway and the Forsyth County line. Per the policy, these properties may connect to sewer and use pumping stations to do so if: 1) a portion of the property fronts or abuts State Route 9; 2) the property if wholly located in District 2, Second Section; and 3) the land lot # is 758, 759, 828, 898, 903, 970, 975, 1041, 1042, 1048, 1111, 1112, or 1113. What is the current "Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA)" with Fulton County and how has this affected decisions to date?
We have a legally required agreement, i.e. the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), with Fulton County that indicates that they are the sewer and water provider for the City of Milton. The IGA also states the geographical boundaries/locations where such services may be provided. Outside of these boundaries, Fulton County has no legal authority to provide sewer in Milton.A few months ago, our attorneys pointed out to us that the language contained in the current IGA did not allow Fulton County to provide sewer service to most of Milton, including most land lots that are clearly in the already-sewered part of Milton, i.e. land lots in the Big Creek Basin and even the land lots along State Route 9 that are specifically exempted in the "No Interbasin Transfer Policy" as being able to be sewered. This interpretation came as a big surprise to Fulton County and to our staff; however, to date, they have not disagreed with our attorney's interpretation. At the time the interpretation was rendered, there were several developments that had already been issued a Land Disturbance Permit (most all of which were issued by Fulton County before we became a city). Significant development to infrastructure, buildings, and roadways had already occurred at a significant cost to these developers. In the case of Target, it was nearly complete and only days away from opening. The council made a unanimous decision to issue permits to these properties with the strict understanding that none of these developments were located in the Etowah River Basin, thereby adhering to our "No Interbasin Transfer Policy." Had we voted to deny these developments access to sewer when they had already been given sewer by Fulton County (before our attorney's interpr etation relative to the shortfalls of the current IGA), the city would have undoubtedly been sued by each and every developer. In my opinion and our attorney's, chances are we would have lost these lawsuits due to the fact that our policy does not prohibit sewer in areas that are already sewered (all these developments were in the Big Creek Basin), substantial development had already taken place (including the erection of buildings and below- and above-ground infrastructure), and the fact that approved Land Disturbance Permits had already been issued.What is being proposed at the meeting on August 4?
Based on recent relelations regarding the inconsistencies between our current IGA with Fulton County and our "No Interbasin Transfer Policy/Ordinance", we obviously need to revise our IGA to be consistent with our own policy and law. Fulton County's proposed fix to this problem is the map entitled, "Proposed City of Milton Sewer Service Area 2008," that is on our website. Click here to download the proposed map
Fulton County falsely asserts that the area denoted as the sewer service area, along with the specific land lots mentioned by name on the map itself, a re all part of the Big Creek Basin. However, this map proposes extension of sewer into numerous land lots in Milton that are not currently sewered, including land lots in areas of the Etowah River Basin west of State Route 9 to Cogburn Road and north of Crabapple. This is against our current "No Interbasin Transfer" Policy and Ordinance and threatens our the preservation of our rural, equestrian character.
People need to understand that just because Fulton County says the proposed Sewer Service Area is all in the Big Creek Basin doesn't, by default, mean that it's true.
What is Alan Tart's position on this issue?
1) Changes are needed to the current IGA but only to make it consistent with our "No Interbasin Transfer" Policy and Ordinance.
2) Any policy that we come up with should:
Be specific to Milton - Since we have attorneys, seven elected officials, and a staff of many, I see no reason to use a policy from a densely developed city as our template;
Prohibit sewer extension into areas of Milton that are not currently sewered (land lots in the Etowah River Basin);
Stay true to our current "No Interbasin Transfer" policy/ordinance - Per our existing ordinance, pumping stations may not be used as way to promote illegal interbasin transfer of wastewater to the Big Creek or John's Creek treatment plants. Also, no private sewage treatment plants should be allowed;
Recognize that sewer is an acceptable method of collecting and treating wastewater in high density areas of Milton that already have sewer, including properties abutting State Route 9 that are specifically exempted in our "No Interbasin Transfer" policy and existing high density neighborhoods and development along State Route 9 - east, Windward Parkway, Deerfield Parkway, and Crabapple - all of which are clearly within the Big Creek Basin and sewer service in these areas is allowed by our existing policy and practice;
Promote registration and regular maintenance of septic systems to protect the health and welfare of our citizens and our waterways;
Clearly show areas and specific land lots served by sewer and those served by septic systems - we need to end this discussion once and for all; and
Recognize the uniqueness of our city and the need to preserve it.
Click here to tell the mayor and city council how you feel.I consider it an honor to serve you as we work together to preserve the uniqueness of our beautiful city. &nbs p;Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
Council Member, District 6 (At Large)