Sewer projects held up over residents’ access

The delay of a pair of sewer projects that would provide service to several Port Orchard properties and South Kitsap High School highlights the challenges the city faces with future growth in the area, officials admit.

Two latecomer agreement plans before the city council have hit snags — one over whether the South Kitsap School District plans to tap into one line proposed for Mitchell Avenue once it’s installed.

Another proposed sewer line has stalled over two property owners’ dispute over whose property would actually carry the sewer pipes.

Latecomer agreements allow property owners to install sewer lines at their own expense along roadway corridors the city may not be considering for sewer service. The property owners do so with the understanding that other property owners may pay to tap into those lines at a later date.

But according to Maher Abed, Port Orchard’s public works director, latecomer agreements are a gamble because there are no guarantees vacant land along the sewer line will be purchased, or that anyone purchasing the property will want to access the line.

Some end up objecting to the costs, Abed said.

“Sometimes people object to where the line is going to be run,” Abed said. “They worry about where their property is, and how it might disrupt or otherwise be inconvenient for them.”

On June 26, a public hearing was held to consider property owner Lee Sebring’s proposal to build a sewer main along the shoulder on Mitchell Avenue. The 8-inch main would connect to the city’s sewer service behind the fire station and extend about 1,500 feet north of the Mile Hill Drive bridge.

Abed said Sebring’s property won’t have sewer service without the line — but nine other properties, including South Kitsap High School, could later benefit from the new line.

Sebring has proposed paying $50,000 for the main with the hope future property owners would pay roughly $6,544 each to tap into the line.

In Sebring’s case, only one property owner objected — and his objection was whether installing the sewer line along the street and sidewalk might force the removal of several trees planted there.

“Obviously, anything we take out we have to put back in,” Sebring said.

Council members urged a delay in signing Sebring’s latecomer agreement, however, after the property owner indicated he’d spoken with school officials who said they would be interested in getting access to the line in the near future.

Abed confirmed officials from South Kitsap School District want to negotiate with Sebring to bring the sewer line as far out as possible along Mitchell Road so that several portables could be built on the high school property.

The matter will be revisted by the city council in August.

But homeowners in the Dogwood Hills area may not see a sewer impasse end there quite as easily.

Raymond Monroe has proposed bringing sewer to his property on Dogwood Hill Road in a project that would extend to the intersection at Dogwood Hill and Bay Street, where it would connect to the city line.

But at least one other property owner has objected to running the line along the opposite side of the road from Monroe’s property because it crosses his land, and because of concerns the road beside the sewer line might collapse.

Monroe argued at a separate public hearing on June 26 that his property couldn’t hold the line because of the proximity of the road to a water well.

Lawyers from both sides are negotiating the conflict, which also prompted the city council to put off making a decision on the Latecomer Agreement. Abed’s office already signed off on the proposed plan.

Despite the controversy and delays, Abed such agreements are necessary to ensure that all property owners have an opportunity to access sewer service, specifically in areas where the city’s lines have yet to be developed.

“It’s an issue that continues to be something we have to deal with,” Abed said. “The city does not having funding to do large (sewer) main extensions to serve every area. We have to rely on developers.”

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure we can provide sewer service to our residents, and in the most streamlined way possible,” he said.

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