Weaverville – At the Weaverville Town Council’s May meeting (May 23), the board approved supplying water to two development projects it had previously turned down, ending their unofficial moratorium on new water projects.
A change in zoning request and another access to the property is why Councilwoman Catherine Cordell says she changed her mind about the project. If approved, the 202-unit project will have 18 buildings, including a clubhouse and pool building, on the approximately 25 acres located behind CVS, Southern Concrete, and North Point Baptist Church at the Ollie Weaver Road/Monticello Road intersection.
The project, since it was just turned down recently, had to get six of the seven board members to vote in favor of waving the one-year waiting period for the project to come back before the board. Councilman Andrew Nagle was the only no vote, with the other six voting to waive the waiting period. Councilwoman Michele Wood had a question about the density that the developer clarified for her.
The board then voted to send the zoning request to the planning and zoning board and set June 27 at 6 pm for a public hearing, with a third vote to approve the water request on the condition of the annexation of the property into the town. Both votes passed 6-1, with Nagle being the lone dissenting vote.
The board then heard a request to supply water to a project off of Reems Creek. The Pleasant Grove Townhome project was presented at the last meeting in April, Town Public Works Director, Dale Pennell, told the council. He said it consisted of 43 units. However, the application documents indicate 54-units, a discrepancy that went unnoticed by anyone at the meeting.
According to Pennell, the owners of the 10-acre property have no plans on asking to be annexed into the town. Pennell said the town had the water to supply, and it would not adversely affect the town’s supply. Cordell asked if Woodfin Water did not supply the area, to which Pennell said no. Nagle, after Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons made a motion to accept the request and seconded by Councilman Doug Jackson, said he did not believe the town should be accepting water requests from outside the town until the mayor’s water regional study was completed and urged other councilmembers to vote against the 22,000 gallons a day commitment. The motion passed 5-2 with Cordell joining Nagle in voting against the motion.
Mayor’s water study report given
The vote on supplying water to the two projects came on the heels of the mayor’s water study report in which Fitzsimmons updated his findings and the way forward for the water department. His proposal includes a mixture of conservation measures, expansion of the water treatment plant and a multi-jurisdictional system that would attract state support.
“I make the following recommendations to the town council,” said Fitzsimmons as he started outlining his plan:
• “Develop a more aggressive tiered pricing system for water. The current pricing structure provides no incentive for users to conserve water usage. Conservation is the easiest and least expensive way to reduce usage and delay need for expanded water capacity. I suggest we create a tiered pricing structure that provides the first 3000 gallons per month at $9.22 per 1000 gallons, the current rate and the amount the average household uses in one month. For 3,001 to 10,000 gallons the rate would be 50% more at $13.83 per 1000 gallons, and for more than 10,001 gallons at $18.44 per 1000 gallons. As an example a customer who uses 5000 gallons currently would pay $48 and under new system would pay $55.00.
Timeline: implement in new fiscal year, July 2022
• “Apply for state funds in conjunction with the town of Marshall. Marshall is interested in building a water line to connect to Mars Hill’s system. Mars Hill wants to connect help provide water to Marshall but be able to use our water also as their capacity is fairly limited. Marshall anticipates they will have their engineering reports completed for such a project in July. I recommend we apply for state funds to expand our water treatment plant with the provision that we will supply Marshall with their water needs via Mars Hill at rates we charge our customers. Our chance of acquiring funding in conjunction with Marshall is much greater than if we pursue funding ourselves due to the fact that Marshall is considered a town at financial risk and in a Tier 2 county ranking their prospects of funding much higher. It is anticipated that there will be a second round of state ARP funding for infrastructure projects in August or September. We need to be an applicant, and we should apply for at full cost of expansion. The max municipalities can apply for in the current round of ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds is $15 million.”
Fitzsimmons said he had “…met with our local state legislator and secured his support for this project. I meet with the Madison County officials this week and will ask them to gain the support of their state legislators also.”
Timeline: Apply to the state in August 2022
• “Retrofit water line connection to Mars Hill. Apparently, the waterline we have between the two cities has water only flowing one way. Seemingly the pump could be retrofitted for water to flow both ways. This would mitigate both of our risks for any water emergencies that may occur. Mars Hill agrees this is a good idea and that we would sell water to each other as needed at regular customer rates.”
Fitzsimmons said Pennell had “…researched this and advises this can be easily accomplished.”
Timeline: end of 2022
• “Connect our system to Woodfin Water. Our water lines literally cross over Woodfin’s water lines at several locations yet there is no valve to connect the two systems anywhere. We should build such a connection, so that we could get water from them or they from us in emergencies or when either needed supplemental water. Woodfin currently produces water and purchases extra from Asheville, all which could flow into our system through such a connection.”
Fitzsimmons said Pennell had also “…researched this and advises we actually had a connection in the past and that this too could be easily accomplished.”
Timeline: by the end of 2022
• “Negotiate extra water supply from Asheville. Asheville has considerable water capacity and by law can only charge other municipalities the same rate they charge their own customers…which we could supplement our water supply with at a low cost.”
Fitzsimmons said the town had requested a meeting with the Asheville Water System about supplying extra water.
Timeline: by the end of 2022
• “Expand our Water Treatment plant. All of the above recommendations will help reduce water usage, provide for emergency and supplemental water for our system, build regional diversification of water supply by connecting Asheville, Woodfin, Weaverville, Mars Hill and Marshall systems, thereby mitigating risk during emergencies for all communities. However, if an attempt to acquire state funding to pay for our water plant expansion through a cooperative proposal with Marshall (with Madison County and Mars Hill as partners) is not successful in the fall of 2022, Weaverville will need to expand their own water treatment plant through a USDA loan soon after. A decision to do so, if the proposal with Marshall fails, should be done before the end of 2022.