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Archive for Thursday, May 23, 1996

SEWER FLAP

May 23, 1996

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The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas will pay the price for having sewer extended to the site of a new church and high school.

Sewer service doesn't come cheap for development that tries to straddle the rolling hills west of Lawrence.

On Wednesday, the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas struck a deal with Douglas County and the city of Lawrence that lets plans go forward for construction of St. Margaret's Episcopal Church and Bishop Seabury Academy, a private high school.

``I happen to like this sort of thing. It's called accommodation,'' said County Commissioner Jim Chappell. ``At the same time, I think we're being pretty clear that there's no free ride. They're going to pay twice.''

The church and school will share a 20-acre tract on the north side of U.S. Highway 40, about one mile west of Wakarusa Drive. Church officials asked the county, which handles the financing for rural sewer districts, to let the entire property join Yankee Tank Sewer District No. 3.

The problem for the county was that the property is bisected by a ridge line that forms the boundary for the sewer district, most of which lies south of U.S. Highway 40. The northern half of the church property, where the high school will be built, is on the down side of a 40-foot slope, which negates any possibility of service from a gravity-flow sewer.

The Rev. Mark Clevenger, a trustee of the diocese, told county commissioners the church was willing to let the property be annexed into the city. Since the county doesn't have the same intensity of regulation for new commercial facilities, that would alleviate concerns about the development meeting city requirements.

The city provides sewer treatment service and dictates the standards for infrastructure.

Clevenger also said the church was willing to pay $22,909 in assessments to the sewer district and to install a lift station. An engineer said that improvement could cost another $20,000.

In addition, the church agreed to pay special assessments on the lower 10 acres when properties to the north band together and petition for a sewer benefit district that would include the high school site.

``We realize that there's freight to pay in terms of being part of the community,'' Clevenger said.

Commissioners acknowledged that the same situation is likely to affect other properties as development continues on U.S. Highway 40. They agreed to honor a request from City Manager Mike Wildgen to make annexation a condition when property owners in similar straits ask to join the sewer district.

``We won't design the (county) jail if you don't design the sewer system,'' Wildgen said.

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