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Barrow County considers lifting sewer tap limits

WINDER - A year-old sewer tap limit designed to control growth is making it difficult for builders to get loans, Barrow County Director of Public Works Terry Darragh told County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Darragh suggests lifting the 50 tap per year cap allowed each developer because market forces are keeping growth under control.

Barrow County Commissioners will hold a public work session in which they will hear from bankers, builders and other affected parties regarding lifting the restrictions.

Commissioners will also discuss increasing architectural standards on single-family residential homes to 1,800 square feet. The minimums are currently 1,600 square feet for a one-story home and 1,850 for a two-story.

"No developer has reached the cap," Darragh said. "We budgeted 300 taps, but developers used only 75. We haven't seen the growth like we expected. The limitation may create a bottleneck since more than adequate sewer is available."

County Commissioner Doug Garrison said developers requested the sewer tap limits to give every developer an opportunity to build in Barrow County and to avoid a single developer using all the sewer capacity.

"It (the restrictions) has basically shut down sewered lots, but not septic," Garrison said.

Some banks don't want to loan on a partial project or on a project that could take several years to build out.

"It takes about 18 months to two years to build a house, from rezoning to house sale," Darragh said. "We could potentially have developments under construction for 10 years."

Commissioners will vote on the matter in the Feb. 27 County Commission meeting. Meanwhile, the men remain divided on the issue. Commissioner Roger Wehunt proposes leaving the sewer tap restrictions in place as a way to help the schools keep pace with growth.

Commissioner Isaiah Berry prefers to keep a limit in place but supports raising it from the current 50.

Commissioners Bill Brown and Jerry Lampp favor lifting those restrictions.

"We need to sell sewer taps to pay for the bond issue," Brown said. "With the down turn in the economy I don't see an influx in residential house sales."

Developers will continue to pay a $4,500 sewer tap fee per home. Barrow County could use the money. It is in the midst of a 20-year, $185 million master plan for running sewer throughout the county. The current 5-year phase of the master plan calls for spending $40 million to upgrade the Tanners Bridge Plant to five million gallons per day as well as run sewer up Ga. Highway 211 and to the Northeast Georgia Regional Airport. The $6.6 million Barber Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant, paid for by bond issue, in Statham is scheduled to open any day.

Barrow County currently has about 400 residential sewer customers and 100 commercial.