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Roanoke Times

Roanoke Times, The (VA)

May 13, 1999



Edition: NEW RIVER
Section: CURRENT
Page: NRV1

Estimated printed pages: 3

Article Text:

Town Council decided late Tuesday to pay for an environmental study and design of the first phase of a sewer line in the Toms Creek basin, but also asked town engineers to study an alternative decentralized system in the area.

Council voted 5-2 to pay Anderson & Associates $545,539 for the study, after more than two hours of comments from opponents of the project.

"I think if we look at the long-term best interests of the town we have no alternative," Vice Mayor Al Leighton said. "If we go through the planning system, we'll be able to answer some very important questions."

Councilmen Michael Chandler and Ron Rordam voted against the contract.

Rordam said he felt uncomfortable approving the study of the sewer line without a comparable study of a decentralized wastewater system for clustered housing.

"I think we should give it the same level of scrutiny as a central system," he said.

Twenty-four people sp! oke to council about the sewer project during the unusually long four-hour meeting. Most of the speakers opposed the line and said it would damage the rural area's environment and encourage development.

"All I ask is that you listen to the people," resident Moises Quinones said. "Not only don't they want the sewer, but there's a problem with high-density development."

Glade Road resident Chuck Rogol said council was experiencing "a credibility gap."

"The only justification for the sewer system is to allow growth," he said. "Who besides real estate developers want growth? Elected officials are supposed to represent the people who elected them."

But Spring Hollow Lane resident George Allen said the project is long overdue.

"The people who own the majority of the land want a sewer system out there," he said. "I hope you go ahead with the study and get something done."

Bill McDonald, a farmer who said he was the basin's largest landown! er, asked council to annex the region back to Montgomery County if the sewer line isn't constructed.

Mayor Roger Hedgepeth said the Toms Creek basin makes up 31 percent of the town's land and must be considered an important part of Blacksburg.

"We can't isolate the Toms Creek issue from everything else council is concerned with," he said.

Council approved the study, but only after an amendment requiring town engineers to study an alternative system was included in the motion. A decentralized system would allow clustered homes to share a septic field and could be less expensive and have less impact on the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has endorsed such systems for ecologically sensitive areas.

Adele Schirmer, director of the town's Planning and Engineering Department, said the project is part of 50-year vision plan for the area.

The entire town would help pay for the sewer line if council eventually approves it.

The sewer rate would rise $2.52 per 1,000 gallons to $2.90, increas! ing the average water and sewer bill from $56 to $64. The cost of connecting to the town's sewer system would increase from $385 to $2,300.

The proposed sewer line would cross Toms Creek and its tributaries at least 70 times.

The $25 million project could end up costing the town $17 million because of a loan from the Virginia Resources Authority, but construction must start within two years.

The first phase of the sewer project would be 12 miles long and cost nearly $10 million to build. Phases two and three would be 10.5 miles long and cost a combined $7 million to build.

In 1973, Montgomery County annexed 15.4 square miles of the county to Blacksburg. The annexation court order required the town to extend sewer service to the annexed land.

Although the town started planning and designing a sewer line, opposition from Toms Creek residents stopped the project. In 1996, the six-square-mile Toms Creek basin was rezoned into three categories ! to control development and maintain its rural quality.

Anderson & Associates has already received $75,000 for the project's preliminary design. The final design is due by May 2000.

Christopher Calnan can be reached at 381-1675 or

Graphic - color map by RT: Toms Creek Basin.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Roanoke Times
Record Number: 9905130013