Development in the Exit 1 area is on hold. Mayor Johnny Piper announced the moratorium to the city’s Gas and Water Committee, citing an overburdened sewer system and repeated back-ups of that system as the root cause.
It’s one of those “no kidding” moments. Anyone paying attention should not be surprised, since the rapid rate of development in that area has surged far beyond the capabilities of its infrastructure that currently exists to support it.
Piper, in reporting to the Committee, said that the Hazelwood lift station, which serves 4500 homes, is overloaded; it’s running at 100% capacity and has overflowed five times in the past year. Now the problem has become an issue with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The result: a freeze on new construction in the Exit 1 area, a move that will eliminate any additional stress on the overburdened system — for now. But the freeze is not a long-term fix.
The solution: Expanded sewage systems for the area. Mayor Piper declined to apply a dollar figure to the fix, but estimates of the cost to improve the station’s capabilities could run from a low of $5 million as high as $10 million. It’s one of the price tags of development gone wild.
Piper said the Hazelwood lift station, which serves more than 4,500 homes, is at 100 percent capacity and has overflowed five times in the last 12 months. Another 5000 lots are ready for development in that area.
By the station’s definition, Piper said that qualifies as “chronic overflow.” If the situtation is not fixed, the city could face fines of up to $20,000 if it allows new buildings to connect to this overloaded sewer line.
It all well and good to see a community thriving and on the grow, but old fashioned common sense should tell city officials that the kind of growth Clarksville has experienced has a bigger price tag that just the price of the homes/businesses built.
Before more building permits are issued, someone – preferably in the form a multi-department committee – needs to take a good hard look at the community foundations that must support these new communities. That “look” must move beyond sewers to water lines, to fire, police and EMS services, issues of roads, traffic flow, sidewalks and mass transit services, with the equations run out to the issue of Montgomery County schools and just many students can be crammed into existing facilities. As it stands, developers make the profits and the city foots the bills for an increasingly overburdened infrastructure.
While Clarksville has a level of appeal to prospective home buyers and industrial developers, unchecked growth will (and already is) resulting in overburdened systems and a traffic problem of sharply escalating proportions. It is a problem that could easily affect other areas of the city facing unchecked development. It would not take much more random and rampant building to tumble the city over that precipice to the realm of less desirable places to live.
The city should consider attaching a substantial fee to building permits that would be applied to the costs of improving and sustaining the infrastructure, the supporting utilities, roads and schools, that serve these developments. Funding for the $5-10 million price tag to address the problem in the Hazelwood area is the question, and Piper has indicated he did not want to make this a rate payer burden.
Shutting down development is a very real answer to a very real problem. It’s the right move, one that will allow Mayor Piper and other officials to work on not just a solution but a proactive approach to further growth, not just in the Hazelwood area, but across Clarksville.