Plain City Mayor Darrin Lane is asking village council to change a long-standing policy about tap fees.
Lane said that if a property’s water and sewer tap is not used for seven years, the tap reverts back to the village.
“What we have done is said, ‘If you haven’t used that tap in seven years, we are taking it back and I just don’t think that is right,” Lane said.
To get the tap back, the property owner is required to pay the full $12,000 tap fee again.
He said the property owner paid for the tap and should be able to use it or not use it if they want. He said that a car manufacturer does not reposes a car if the owner doesn’t drive it regularly.
The mayor explained that on multiple occasions, someone wanting to buy an older property has approached him. Lane said there are many buildings in the village that need someone to buy them and restore them. He said that adding a $12,000 tap fee to the purchase price is, “a huge deterrent.”
Village Fiscal Officer Renee Sonnett said the policy is part of the water rules and regulations established several administrators ago.
Village Administrator Kevin Vaughn said it is, “about saving capacity and knowing how much capacity we have.”
Vaughn said that in years past the village has had very few available taps. He said that by reclaiming taps not in use, the village had more available for development. He said sold taps, even if they were not being used, counted against the village’s capacity to allow new development to connect to the water and sewer system.
Additionally, he said it can be difficult to keep track of taps if they are not in use.
Council member Nick Kennedy said he can’t believe that is an issue, “in this day and age.”
Vaughn said there are some fees associated with getting a tap back in order and restoring service to the line. Lane said he could understand imposing a fee, but not repossessing the tap. He said the fee should be commensurate with the costs. Council President John Rucker agreed.
Lane said that by not reclaiming the tap and by reducing the fee, the village may be able to spur the redevelopment of some abandoned properties.
He said that both properties he has been approached about have absent owners who inherited the homes and have no real incentive to sell the home quickly.
Village Solicitor Paul Lafayette said there is also some concern about simply turning a tap back on. He said that a dormant tap can stop working. He said that by puting a timeframe on the use, the village is able to ensure they stay functional or it has the ability to make repairs before it is used again.
“I don’t know what the timeframe should be, but I’m sure that’s why that is there,” Lafayette said.
Vaughn and Lafayette said they would look into options.
Lane thanked them for “anything we can do to spur growth and not deter it, especially if it doesn’t cost the village anything.”
Kennedy asked about the possibility of expanding water and sewer service to the Ballantyne property on both sides of the U.S. 42 bypass and the Woodard property on the north and east side of North Chillicothe Street and U.S. 42.
For months council has discussed the possibility of extending services to the properties. The project would cost an estimated $2.5 million, but economic development officials agree the properties will not develop without the utilities.
Kennedy said the issue is too big to think about without a proposal to consider or at least some guidance. He asked if Lane or Vaughn could create a plan for council to consider and discuss, even if that plan serves only as a jumping off point.
“It seems like without some ideas on the table, it’s hard to get our heads around it,” Kennedy said.
He added, “I think we all want to commercialize that area and get some tax revenue, but I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Lane said the village administration has some plans it can share. He said the property owners are offering to sell the land, but the price will double once water and sewer services are available. The mayor said he would like to see a situation where the property owns, who will benefit, help pay for the improvements or have new owners help pay for the improvements after it has been sold.
“I think that’s our best options,” said Lane.
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