PITTSBORO — The town’s board of commissioners held a public hearing Monday regarding updating its system development fees.
Town Engineer Kent Jackson brought the item before the board and explained how the state requires municipalities to reexamine the fees charged for tapping into the water and wastewater system every five years.
“We started this in the fall of 2021,” he said. “The town originally conducted an analysis and adopted a fee in 2018, and so according to the North Carolina statutes, that analysis has to be updated every five years.”
System development fees (SDF) are one-time payments made by developers during construction to connect to municipal water and sewer systems. The fees help pay for the connection as well as to help fund projects to improve and expand existing infrastructure.
The town contracted engineering firm Freese and Nichols to perform an analysis on the town’s capacity and estimate the maximum amount the town could charge per service unit. That analysis showed the town could charge a maximum of over $39,000 to connect one service unit to both the water and wastewater system, which is significantly above the town’s current $4,200 SDF.
Surrounding municipalities like Apex charge between $12,000 and $15,000 in SDFs per service unit, which is three times higher than the current SDF Pittsboro has in place.
Commissioner Kyle Shipp previously told the News + Record that Pittsboro needed to raise its fees to be comparable to these other towns.
“We’re going to have to land somewhere near other municipalities in terms of SDFs,” Shipp said. “It’s an economic reality that we have to be near our neighbors, and I think we can be higher than some of our neighbors because we have more cost than them and more growth ahead.”
The SDF update report projected population growth to increase from 8,566 residents to more than 50,000 by 2042. The Pittsboro water treatment plant and the wastewater facility are already nearing full capacity, though, meaning the town needs funding for projects to expand the town’s infrastructure.
Some developers aren’t satisfied with the results of the analysis.
Tim Smith represented Chatham Park developers and was the only speaker during the public comment period of the hearing. Smith, who along with partner Bubba Rawl head up the investors for Chatham Park, argued the numbers used to calculate the maximum SDF were larger than what Chatham Park and other developments in town use, or are allowed to use, when tapping into the system.
“The average use for a house in town is around 102 gallons per day, and on their chart, they have 500 gallons,” Smith said to commissioners. “So to penalize a home builder for using 500 gallons when he’s only going to be using 102, to me, that’s five times more than what’s necessary.”
Smith went on to say Chatham Park shouldn’t be “punished” for using fewer gallons than the number used in the SDF calculations, and therefore, the town shouldn’t implement the maximum.
“I do think more development should pay its way and pay for all these improvements as they have outlined them here,” Smith said. “But I just have questions about the numbers used for the usage of water and sewer.”
Shipp said it was very unlikely the town would raise the SDF to the calculated maximum, but an exact number hasn’t been suggested by board members yet.
“I think it’s unlikely we’ll do the maximum, but we don’t know how we would determine a different number,” he said.
The board voted to accept the results of the study and set a public hearing on March 27 to discuss the possible amount for the new SDF.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.