City weighs toughened water, sewer standards

Potential customers living outside limits would have to show good cause


July 22, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Accessing Westminster's public water and sewer system would become tougher for prospective customers outside city limits under a proposal before the Common Council.

Under the proposed regulation, prospective customers would have to complete an application for a good-cause waiver and show that it's to the city's benefit to extend public water and sewer service without annexing the property, said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works.

The regulation, which the Common Council is to introduce tonight, contains a 28-point criterion for considering a waiver request. The city's goal is to protect and not overtax its resources.

Up to 60 percent of the city's public utility customers could lie outside Westminster limits if planned developments and projects are completed in the next few years.

"Someone should not feel that if [he or she] applies, [he or she] will get approval," Beyard said. "Approval is more the exception than the rule. A heavy burden of persuasion rests with the applicant."

Waivers now are approved on a case-by-case basis, but the city has not had formal guidelines. Beyard said that the city has granted seven waivers - four for individual property owners whose wells ran dry and for three long-standing county projects.

Public utilities generally are available to owners of any annexed properties. Waivers have been granted to property owners - such as those noted above - whose parcels are not contiguous to the city.

Under the proposed regulation, waivers could be granted to schools or businesses. Service also could be provided when health and safety concerns outweigh the need for the city to increase its tax revenue through annexation.

"I think it's more of a decision on council's part to make sure that developments and entities that get city water and sewer become part of [the] city and absorb the full cost of those resources," said Council President Damian L. Halstad.

Code amendments

Also on the council's agenda tonight is introduction of amendments to the city's year-old property maintenance code.

The amendments were presented as recommendations at the council meeting June 10. Commercial and owner-occupied buildings would fall under the code, which now applies only to rental properties.

Another recommendation would require all residential rentals to be registered to determine property ownership and to provide a database of contact numbers for code enforcement officers.

Coalition of towns

Also, Frank Johnson, the Mount Airy council president who is leading a campaign to create a coalition among Carroll's eight towns to manage growth, is expected to address Westminster officials. This will be his first public appeal before Westminster's council.

"The municipalities are essentially united in objecting to the county's portrayal of our role in overdevelopment," Halstad said. "I think that [Westminster's] view is that their facts are simply wrong."

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