The town Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a new points system for allocating water service for new construction. The system is based on one Knightdale adopted in 2008.
Wendell had been using a policy adopted in 2002, before the town merged its water and sewer service with Raleigh’s, planning director David Bergmark told the board. Wendell now must purchase its allocation from Raleigh, and if it purchases too much it ends up with a debt to Raleigh. If it doesn’t purchase enough, then it might not have enough to bring development it would like to have.
During the recession, Bergmark said, the town allocated more water for new development than what was being built.
And the Wendell Falls subdivision under construction, Bergmark said, also has changed the water allocation picture in town.
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“We’ve seen a little of a shift in what people desire in terms of a subdivision, and it has also changed what we have in terms of allocation,” he said, with buyers looking for “amenity driven” developments.
The points system will give preference to development that diversifies the town’s housing stock and increases the commercial tax base. The new policy will give the town more leverage in allowing uses that fit its goals, Bergmark said.
Criteria the town will be using include: effect on the tax base, construction of public infrastructure, employment opportunities, diverse housing stock, open space preservation, tree canopy preservation, recreation, outdoor amenities and effect on the residential vs. commercial breakdown in town.
The town has a goal of getting to 60 percent residential development and 40 percent commercial. That mix is currently 72 percent to 24 percent.
“In short, residential doesn’t pay for itself,” Bergmark said. “Many studies have shown that tax revenue you generate from houses, unless it’s a very, very, very expensive home, doesn’t really pay for all the services you need to provide, while, on the other hand, commercial development, you generate more revenue through taxes than the cost to provide services to those.”
If a project scores at least 50 points in the new system and the town has at least 100,000 gallons per day of sewer capacity in reserve, the town manager would approve it. If a project scores at least 50, but approving it would reduce capacity to under 100,000 gallons per day, the decision would come before the board for a public hearing.
The third way to get approval is designed to encourage infill development of smaller parcels already surrounded by development, Bergmark said. Some of these spots could get approval as a special exception without reaching 50 points by meeting another set of criteria: The project must be less than 20 acres, there cannot be vacant land of 10 acres or more adjacent to it, study must show that a commercial use would not be suited on the property, and all homes must have at least 2,200 square feet of heated space.
“There have been a lot of tools that have been taken away from local governments by the legislature,” Bergmark said. “This is still a tool at our disposal. So this is something we could still use to get a better tax base, more diversified housing than we have right now.”
Commissioner John Boyette said he would like the board to get quarterly reviews of how much capacity the town has remaining to help keep the town in line with its requested allocation.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826