By Dustin Ensinger
An agreement between the developer of a residential property in Berlin Township and Delaware County sets a bad precedent that will ultimately cost taxpayers in the end, according to one county commissioner.
Commissioner Ken O’Brien was highly critical of a deal approved Thursday in a 2-1 vote that he says will lead to higher taxes, increased sewer fees or reduced service.
O’Brien cast the lone vote against the measure.
The agreement allows Dominion Homes to construct and install the infrastructure necessary to connect an 88-acre property to the county’s sanitary sewer system to service its Brookview Manor development. Through the resolution approved Thursday, the county will reimburse Dominion Homes for $51,280 of the cost.
But O’Brien says it will be even more costly in the end. He said past precedent required developers to bring the lines across their properties so adjacent properties could more easily hook into the system. Dominion Homes is not being required to do that to the property to the south, which O’Brien says is the next most likely area for development. That alone could cost the county another $50,000 in the end, he said.
O’Brien says that if every other developer is afforded the same opportunity, it could cost the county millions of dollars each year, adding to the five-year projected debt of $13.6 million that the Sanitary Engineer Enterprise fund is already facing.
“We either going to have to raise fees, we’re going to have to raise taxes or shut the system down,” O’Brien said, adding that shutting the system down is not a realistic option.
Director of Environmental Services Tiffany Jenkins agreed that the deal is less than perfect.
“This is not the agreement that I would have recommended, but I do as the board requests,” she said.
O’Brien also said he fears future projects could be cut.
“We are making it so our developmental growth in the future is going to be stymied,” he said.
However, Commissioner Gary Merrell said the agreement with Dominion Homes is about spurring development.
“I think this is a win-win for everyone involved,” he said.
While O’Brien has called for the county to rework its sewer master plan, Merrell said the county cannot put a halt on development while that is completed.
“Development in this county can’t come to a standstill until we come around to that,” he said.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.