By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
When you buy into a private community, it often comes with additional costs. In some communities, that cost includes a private water or sewer system, built just for your community.
But private infrastructure such as sanitary sewer systems are costly to operate and maintain. And what happens when equipment and underground pipes need to be replaced?
Be prepared for substantial additional costs, as in millions of dollars.
Pheasant Ridge homeowners association consists of 533 properties. The HOA has known for a few years that the aging sewer system is failing. The Association has been warned that leaky sewer pipes and inadequate treatment of waste water will result in hefty fines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But the HOA also knew it would never be able to raise millions of dollars needed to rebuild their private sewer plant.
But Lorain County officials stepped in, and the HOA was eventually able to work out a deal to connect Pheasant Ridge to a large sewer treatment plant several miles away in LaGrange.
Price tag for the project: nearly $8 million. That works out to more than $14,000 per household. Homeowners will be paying additional tax assessments for the next 20-30 years. In addition, they will be paying a 25% surcharge on their sewer utility bills.
I find it interesting that the County is cast as the hero of the day for rescuing the HOA from rebuilding their private sewer system. After all, it was the County that approved construction of a private system a few decades ago. And while the HOA remained responsible for operation and maintenance, no agency provided expert guidance or assistance for homeowners until the sewer system was well beyond its useful life.
But now that the County is interested in collecting tax revenue from new construction that will resume after the sewer system is upgraded, there is a sudden interest in helping a community that was always way too small to adequately sustain its own private sewer treatment system.
Homeowners to shoulder costs of sewer work
Brad Dicken | The Chronicle-TelegramPublished on March 17, 2017 | Updated 9:40 a. m.
LAGRANGE TWP. — When a new sewer system is installed in the Pheasant Run housing development over the next year, homeowners there will be responsible for helping to pay off the cost of the project, with most shouldering an assessment of $14,679.48.
That bill won’t come due immediately, Lorain County Administrator Jim Cordes said, but will instead be put on property tax bills for the next 20 to 30 years. Exactly how long hasn’t been decided yet.
If the length of time to pay back the loan is 20 years, it will mean homeowners are paying $733.97 per year. If the term is 30 years, the cost would drop to $489.32 annually.
Cordes said the cost might seem high, but it would have been far worse if the county hadn’t stepped in and agreed to run a nearly 4.5-mile-long sewage line from the 533-home subdivision to the wastewater treatment plant in LaGrange, which also will need to be upgraded and paid for with additional charges to homeowners. Cordes estimated that would amount to a 25 percent surcharge on sewers bills.