Forsyth denied developer Otis Ingram’s request that the city share in the approximately $45,000 cost of bringing a six-inch water line from the city main to his building (soon-to-be French Market) at the corner of W. Main Street and S. Jackson St. However, the city will waive tap fees of about $6,000 for Ingram to connect to city water and will supply city labor and materials to rebuild the sidewalk that will be torn up to install the six-inch water line to Ingram’s building.
French Market & Tavern plans to open in the building on the square, and Ingram plans to build loft apartments upstairs. After a lengthy discussion of the water line and the implications of the city paying to install it at the Jan. 4 council meeting, council member Melvin Lawrence abstained from the motion to deny the request for the city to share in the cost, and council member Chris Hewett abstained from voting on the amendment to the motion to waive tap fees and replace the sidewalk, saying, “I have no idea.” The motion and amendment each passed, 5-0.
The water line is required by Georgia law because of a change of use to apartments above a restaurant that will serve alcohol. There must be a sprinkler system that will require a six-inch water line. The line would run from Chambers Street up to S. Jackson St. on the back side of the building. Ingram told council on Dec. 7 that the estimate from Pyles Plumbing to tap the line at Chambers St. and trench it up the hill under the sidewalk was $32,000 and to repair the sidewalk after the line was installed would be about another $13,000 for poured concrete.
At the Dec. 7 meeting Howell Newton, who owns property affected by the new water line construction, asked that the water line on his property be moved. He suggested moving the water line from the parking lot that is serving several buildings to the alleyway. Council tabled the requests from Ingram and Newton on Dec. 7 and asked Hall to provide more information.
Hall opened discussion on Jan. 4 by telling council that sharing in the cost with Ingram to install the line would set a precedent that would be very expensive for the city.
“If you pay for this you will be changing policy and will be paying for all lines going forward,” said Hall. “The other issue is that you will require the other business owners to install lines in the alleyway. You would have to request an easement from three property owners and give them added expense even though they aren’t making any changes.”
The other businesses affected are West Main Salon, Sol Tacos & Tequila and Georgia Hardware. Ingram said that if Sol Tacos ever wants to do anything with its upstairs, it will also have to install a six-inch water line to facilitate a sprinkler system. Hall said that is true.
Council member Greg Goolsby asked if this would be a good opportunity to correct the problem of having city water lines on private property. Hall said she agreed that city water lines shouldn’t be on private property but reiterated that changing the city’s policy of having developers pay to have water lines brought to the city’s infrastructure would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to install water lines.
City attorney Bobby Melton said the city has prescriptive easements with the property owners because the water lines have been in place for so many years even though it doesn’t have written easements.
Ingram said he wasn’t asking for reimbursement for sewer lines. He said he has to have the six-inch line to have enough water pressure for a sprinkler system to be effective. He said it is to prevent damage from a fire like the one that gutted Grits Cafe.
“My opinion as a developer is that I shouldn’t have to go a full block to tap on,” said Ingram. “Eventually someone will tap onto the line I put in because the city will own the six-inch line.”
Hall provided council a list of eight other developers who have paid their own costs of laying water lines from their property to tap on to the city’s existing water lines: Wes Cone, Manor at Montpelier, New City Hall, Board of Education Fine Arts Building, Royal 7, Valero, Isabell Waldrep and Fowler Flemister Concrete.
“I would like council to keep in mind I’ve been a supporter of the city. I sold property for city hall at a very reasonable price; I should have tacked this on,” said Ingram. “If you won’t share costs, what can the city do for me?”
Hall said the city has a policy of waiving tap fees for developers who create new uses for buildings. She said the tap fee for the six-inch line would be $5,000 and tap fees for the individual apartments would be about $1,000, saving Ingram $6,000. Hall said council can approve replacing the sidewalks after the line is laid, saving Ingram that cost, even though Royal 7 and the Board of Education moved sidewalks and put them back at their own expense.
Goolsby said the city should act to move utilities off of Newton’s property. Melton said that is a separate issue; he suggested asking city engineer Hofstadter & Associates to give an estimated cost for moving the lines from Newton’s property and a plan for where the lines will go.
“Thank you for your consideration,” said Ingram.
“Thank you for your service to the city,” said Wilson.