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City council nixes condemnation plans for Habersham plant, cancels plan for new facility at site
No change to fee for residents
Glenn Berny, treasurer of the Habersham Action Committee, looks over the subdivisions wastewater plant. A private facility built in the 1970s, it served about 400 residents until it was condemned by the city of Cumming after a fire damaged its storage shed. (file photo) - photo by Kelly Whitmire

The city of Cumming has decided a formerly-private sewer facility off Buford Dam Road will not be usable for a future water plant and have decided not to go ahead with plans for a new facility at the site.

Members of the Cumming City Council voted 5-0 at a meeting on Monday to rescind condemnation of the Habersham Wastewater Treatment Plant and abandon plans for a future state-of-the-art facility for that site.

“As you're aware, the city has been operating the Habersham water treatment facility since April of this year,” said Jon Heard, city utilities director. “This piece of property is not optimal to build a future wastewater facility. It is my request … to rescind the condemnation [and] also to abandon the idea of obtaining property [near the site].”

Included in the discussion were motions, which both passed unanimously, to negotiate with owners or condemn a small piece property to connect the Habersham communities with the city's sewer system and to award a bid to install water lines in the area to North Georgia Pipeline Inc. for $92,000.

Reached Wednesday morning, Mayor Ford Gravitt said the property was not large enough for the proposed state-of-the-art facility planned at the site, which was planned to be built in the next few years and take on about 111,000 gallons per day with a goal of 15 million gallons per day by 2050.

“There's just not enough property — it was only about 10 acres — and the engineers said it's going to take 25 to 30 acres to facilitate the basin in Habersham,” Gravitt said.

At the meeting, Heard said materials, geography and rock desposits also raised issues for the project.

The rescission of the April condemnation means the former owners can sell the property and a permit that allowed the plant to flow treated wastewater into Lake Lanier,

Some against the condemnation asserted the permit was a reason for taking over the facility.

The system dates to the 1970s, when it was more common for large neighborhoods to build their own due to a lack of infrastructure.

The Habersham plant has been recently a sore point between the city and residents living in the area.

In April, city council members voted unanimously to take over the plant and later charged those connected $6,250 in fees to connect to city sewer, which could be paid in a discounted lump sum of $5,000 or paid in installments with a required interest rate.

Residents were first given two months to respond before the deadline was extended another 60 days by the council in July. The facility served about 400 homes in five neighborhoods off Buford Dam.

Residents said it was unfair those who couldn't afford to pay all at once would have to pay more, and some said they bought their home believing they were on city sewer.

Connecting residents to the city's water line was the reasoning for the decisions to condemn the small plot of land and the installation bid, according to the mayor.

Before the decision to take over the facility, a small shed holding the main sewage pump of the facility was damaged in a fire on April 6, and untreated sewage was diverted to a nearby city sewer line.

In June, Forsyth County District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson held a town hall — the neighborhoods are in her commission district, though the county is not involved — where residents said they were considering at least three types of lawsuits: a 30-day injunction to stop work at the plant, suing the city to get back tap fees and to sue previous property owners if the current homeowners’ closing paperwork says they’re on public sewer.

In the early 2000s, the facility was taken over by homeowners. The group eventually became the Habersham Action Committee, which previously handled business items.

The next steps for the aging facility and where the new proposed facility could go are not immediately clear.