By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
County refunds sewer money
Project stalled on north end
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
When it comes to sewer capacity in Forsyth County, having more than you need can stink.

But one developer will be getting a partial refund for unused capacity bought seven years ago.

In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the county commission granted the refund of potentially $1.06 million to developer Jot Em Down LLP, provided the developer can produce all the necessary invoices showing costs.

The developer, in turn, plans to use that money to revive construction in the subdivision in northeastern Forsyth.

Commissioner Jim Harrell opposed the measure, saying he didn’t have enough information.

Sewer reservation fees have been a sore spot for local developers, which often look to recoup the money if their developments stall.

“The board stopped giving these refunds when the financial crisis hit,” Perkins said. “We looked at giving refunds under certain conditions if the money’s there.”

The developer of Settlers’ Lake, off Jot Em Down Road, secured its sewer capacity in 2003, paying the county $2.2 million up front.

The 388-lot development has since stalled, with 243 lots empty.

The developer asked for a refund, the money the county owed for installing a pipe and interest the county collected on the developer’s money, provided it is more than than a certain amount per lot.

Under the approved plan, Perkins said, the developer will get a refund for the unused capacity. Moving forward, the development converts to a pay-by-the-lot-model for sewer, with the fee $2,000 per lot.

Though this option existed when the developer started Settlers’ Lake, they risked losing the zoning and the money invested in that zoning unless all the sewer taps were reserved up front, said co-owner Marion Morrison.

The developer still will have about $314,000 invested in 500,000 gallons of reserved capacity.

The county is working on a new policy to standardize sewer reservation requests in the future, Perkins said.

Though past years have seen up to $20 million in sewer tap revenues, the water and sewer department expects just $1.5 million this year.

Tap fees have varied over the years. Perkins said the county estimates there are about 2,274 undeveloped lots for which developers have paid sewer costs.

If refunds were granted for all of those lots, the total cost would be about $11.6 million.

“This one’s a bit unique because we had limited capacity up there,” Perkins said of Settlers’ Lake. “I don’t think this will set precedent.”

The developer had also incurred additional expenses by installing a pipe for the sewer system, with a promise from the county to reimburse them.

The company hopes to be refunded $173,244 for that cost.

Details of the refund likely will be worked out soon.

“I would kind of consider it a wash from our records and start at ground zero,” Commissioner Patrick Bell said.

The first of the subdivision’s two phases has 93 homes sold and 52 lots platted. The 243 lots in the second phase have not been started, leaving the company and subdivision residents discouraged.

Despite setbacks, Morrison remains optimistic.

“I just feel like we’ve got a good subdivision. We’ve got a good builder,” he said. “We’re committed to stay there, but we need help.”

With development stalled, the company’s bank was pressuring the developer for funds, which was when it turned to the county.

Builders now plan to go ahead with 10 more houses within the month.