Carlsborg sewer costs raise residents' concerns

Skepticism and fear permeated the first meeting on the proposed sewer and reuse water system for the Carlsborg urban growth area held June 18 at Greywolf Elementary School.

More than 100 people attended the two-hour meeting, the first of three, that featured officials from Clallam County, Clallam County Public Utility District and BHC Consultants of Seattle.

Concerns raised included estimated construction assessments as high as $22,000 for a home and $75,000 for a small business, who might be required to pay for that construction, who would be required to hook up and the fate of existing septic systems.

The proposed sewer and reuse water system's preliminary route runs north along Mill Road and then east along Idea Place to the Clallam PUD Service Center.

Estimated construction cost is almost $15 million with a projected $5 million coming from state and federal grants and the remainder from an estimated 120 parcels possibly over a 20-year period.

The stakes are high.

John Wilson, of BHC Consultants of Seattle, said if there's no sewer plan for Carlsborg then the state will cancel the urban growth area designation.

Then the area will revert to a rural designation - one unit per five acres - which means "downzoning" and decreased property values, he said.

Homes would be red-tagged if the septic system failed and existing buildings would be declared "nonconforming uses" which means they can't be expanded and if more than 50 percent is destroyed - such as in a fire -- the building couldn't be rebuilt.

The state wants a plan showing Clallam PUD can serve the entire Carlsborg area, and the initial system serving part of the area would demonstrate a good faith

effort, Wilson said.

Wilson said the idea is that an interceptor line would be built by 2012 and expanded over 20 years but there's no definite plan yet.

"You tell us what you want to do. This is not a done deal," he said.

Construction costs might be $20,000 or $1,400 over 20 years and $50 to $70 per month for the sewer charge, Wilson said.

Those figures are "preliminary assessments," which are provided to property owners before they are asked to sign a petition asking the Clallam PUD commissioners to form a local utility district.

Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, apologized for not having better cost estimates.

"I'm sorry we don't have the solid ranges you need to make decisions. This will impact what happens now and in the future. We need more specific, defined numbers," he said.

"There's not many options for Carlsborg. We thought an urban growth area was best. We review it every six months," Tharinger said.

Tom Martin, Clallam PUD's assistant water and sewer superintendent, said a local utility district for Carlsborg would be formed by a request from property owners, such as Local Utility District No. 10 that serves Greywolf Elementary School and the surrounding area.

A local utility district can borrow money at a lower interest rate than private property owners and repay the loan through assessments against the properties. It also allows spreading the cost over 20 years.

Martin said if there's enough interest, a public hearing on forming the LUD could be held in January 2010.

According to a schedule provided at the meeting, construction would last from January 2011 to May 2012 with sewer service beginning June 2012 and the first assessments due October 2012.

Wilson said notices would be sent to all Carlsborg property owners within two months asking them to respond on whether they are interested in forming a local utility district.

The process can start with a petition from 10 percent of the property owners.

But later in the meeting, Clallam PUD Commissioner Ted Simpson said when it gets to the commissioners, "If there's less than 50 percent support, that's the end of it."

John Woodring, an attorney representing four mobile home parks, said the new infrastructure would cost one-third of the existing homes' value.

"It will change the character of the park. I hope affordable housing outweighs protecting critters. I have nothing against higher density but not if it's on the backs of the mobile home park residents. It's not fair, it's not right, and it doesn't work," Woodring said to applause from the audience.

Tharinger said Friday that since mobile home park residents won't be required to hook up and won't be charged, they weren't included in the cost calculations for the sewer and water reuse system.

The audience's sentiment could be summed by a woman who stood to ask, "How many people have an extra $200 plus $50 to $70 a month and money for increased property taxes from increased property assessments?"

Sequim resident Troye Jarmuth stood up to reiterate the potential consequences from the Growth Management Hearings Board.

"You will all go back to 1990 and you'll be nonconforming and unable to build," she said.

Sequim City Councilor Paul McHugh, who owns three Carlsborg properties, later said he opposed the idea for three reasons:

_ A majority of Carlsborg residents won't benefit financially.

_ There are no guarantees Clallam PUD can get the water to serve Carlsborg anyway.

_ The area has no large commercial properties left.

Why it's needed

Clallam County and Clallam PUD officials say the system is being proposed to:

_ Address public health concerns created by excess nitrates from septic tank effluent.

_ Promote economic development currently hampered by water shortages and zoning constraints due to a lack of sewer service.

_ Improve environmental conditions for aquatic life in Matriotti Creek and the Dungeness River.

_ Comply with a Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board order that the Carlsborg urban growth area

be served by public sewer to support future urban growth.

In addition to the sewer system, a reclaimed water system would produce "Class A" reclaimed water, the highest class of reclaimed water. It has had organic, inorganic and biological impurities removed but is not approved as drinking water.

Using the reclaimed water would reduce demand on drinking water for such uses as irrigation, firefighter training, vehicle washing and aquifer recharge.

Additional information on the draft Carlsborg Sewer Facilities Plan and the sewer planning process is available at in the "Water" section at the link directed to "Sewer Study."

What it could cost

Estimated range of preliminary assessments:

_ Single-family home on small lot: $13,000 to $22,000

_ Single-family home on large lot: $25,000 to $50,000

_ Small commercial business: $18,000 to $75,000

_ Large commercial business: $80,000 to $200,000

_ Vacant and undeveloped acreage: $100,000 to $150,000 per acre

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