April 15, 2002
Lottery will determine sewer hookup allocation
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
DUVALL - The City Council last week approved 140 new sewer hookups that will be determined by a random drawing. The approval was contingent on the city's receiving a revised sewer plant discharge permit from the Department of Ecology, which came in the mail the day of the council meeting.
The council held public hearings last summer to give residents a chance to comment on how the city should best allocate the expected 140 ERUs (Equivalent Residential Units). But in the end, the council decided a random drawing is the only legal way to go.
"A random allocation is the least popular but legally the most fair way," said Elizabeth Goode, director of Duvall Public Works. "It works on the same principle that all citizens have the same rights regardless of how long they have lived in a community. Giving preference is not the legal way to do it."
Goode referred to a number of longtime residents who have not been able to subdivide or develop their property since the emergency sewer moratorium was enacted in July of 1999. Some of them pleaded their cases at last summer's hearings. Others who requested hookups included members of Holy Innocents Catholic Church, which hopes to construct a larger building for the growing parish, human services agencies and those who reminded the council that the new Cedarcrest athletic facilities need restrooms.
The revision of the sewer plant discharge permit had been dependent on the completion of an extension of a sewage outfall pipe, which was finished last year. The pipe, which now extends further out in the river, allows for better mixing of treated effluent water into the river.
At the March 28 council meeting, special legal counsel John Milne, citing concerns over the possibility of the city being sued, emphasized that a random allocation is the most "legally defensible way" to make the 140 ERUs available. An ERU means one single-family house, or one equivalent to a single-family house.
The city will make the 140 ERUs available through the issuance of Certificates of Sewer Availability. Applications will become available to the public on April 22 and be accepted through May 24. No late applications will be accepted. Results will be announced on June 3.
Those who wish to apply must fill out an application, available at city offices during normal office hours. Only one application shall be considered for a specific parcel (tax lot) and shall include all ERUs requested for the specific parcel. All parcels must be inside the city limits.
All complete applications will be drawn in a random order by an independent third party designated by the city.
Milne emphasized that all the allocated ERUs must be used, rather than used for speculation.
"If they are not used, they will go back to the city," he said. "The intent is to get these out the door and minimize legal problems."
The 140 ERUs are expected to be the last hookups available until the sewage treatment plant undergoes a major expansion. Completion of the expansion will be at least five years away.
Goode said the plant was originally designed for 6,000 residents, but the council had been told at one time it could handle 9,000. Goode said she conducted studies, however, that proved that the plant could not handle a population of 9,000.
The city's population is currently around 4,500, but it is expected to increase again with the completion of several large residential developments, approved prior to the moratorium.