Archive for Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Study of sewer system on schedule

Future development in northwest area could hinge on results

December 20, 2005

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A key report that should shed light on whether the city's sewer system in the northwest area is overloaded is still on track to be completed by the end of this month.

"I ask the consultants every day whether it will be done by the end of the month, and I'm still getting nods that it will be," said Debbie Van Saun, assistant city manager who is overseeing the project.

There was some concern that the study would be delayed because it required a certain amount of rainfall for it to be accurate. But Van Saun said that was no longer a concern.

City planners have placed conditions on several projects in the northwest area pending the completion of studies to determine whether the sewer system in the area can handle additional growth. Van Saun said she was still holding out the hope that the upcoming report by Wade & Associates would reveal enough good news that projects that have been delayed would be allowed to move ahead.

But Van Saun said that would all depend on what data the report produces. The report is measuring the actual amount of sewage flowing through pipes in the area to determine whether fears raised by the city's Utilities Department are justified. City leaders became concerned when they began reviewing building permit data that suggested portions of the northwest area were growing much faster than the sewer plan projected.

Van Saun said a team of city employees had been meeting weekly to review population projections, and believes that some areas already have more people than the plan projected them to have by 2010.

The city is now working to revise the population projections for the area. Van Saun said the city would reach out to developers for input on the assumptions that the city will use when developing population projections for the area.

For example, Van Saun said the city was assuming that property in the northwest area outside the Lawrence school district would be less attractive for development.

"We've had a lot of second guessing and questioning about our population projections," Van Saun said. "This is the opportunity for everybody to have input into the process. We don't want it to be an exclusionary process."

Jane Eldredge, a local land use attorney, said she believed the development community would take advantage of the opportunity.

"I think the city is working very hard to get some important information," Eldredge said. "I just hope they can deliver the results when they indicated they could."

Van Saun said a study session with city commissioners, school board members and members of the development community could happen in early February.

A final report that produces new population projections and shows what improvements need to be made to the area's sewer system is still scheduled to be completed in the spring.

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