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Fairfax County board agrees to pay back developers who expand sewer pipes

Water pipe (image via Marco Bicca/Unsplash)

If developers are willing to invest in boosting sewage infrastructure with their new projects, Fairfax County is willing to foot part of the bill.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a new policy (page 621) on Tuesday (Dec. 6) that would allow the county to reimburse developers for the cost of building enlarged sewage facilities to help grapple with wastewater. This change also means a slight sewer bill increase for local residents.

“The proposed policy recommends reimbursing developers for the cost of constructing an enlarged sewage facility based on the County’s share of existing and future wastewater flow,” a staff report sid. “Future flows are based on buildout described in the Comprehensive plan. The developers will be responsible for the cost that is equal to the proportional share of the enlarged facility that conveys flow exclusively from their development.”

The report said the current policy for reimbursing developers for enlarging sewer facilities is outdated and has not been used for 20 years.

According to county staff, the county’s pro-rate share of costs for eligible projects over the next two fiscal years would be $22.5 million or less. That cost will likely come from a 20-cent-per-month increase to the average sewer bill for residents.

According to the report:

This estimated amount would be paid out over several fiscal years, because potentially eligible projects are in various stages of plan review and approval and reimbursement will not be issued until construction milestones are met. To account for the proposed policy, staff anticipates recommending an additional increase of $0.20 per month on an average sewer bill for residential customers and an additional increase in Availability Charges of $182 for single-family homes and $146 for townhomes and multi-family homes.

While the change does mean a sewer rate increase for residents, the report said the financial burden of boosting local sewer infrastructure is lessened by sharing that cost between the county and local developers.

“By cost-sharing with private developers, all current users benefit from improved sanitary sewer infrastructure that reduces the potential for sewage release into the environment, and all rate payers benefit from reduced sewer maintenance and replacement costs,” the report said. “Without this policy, the cost to upsize sewer facilities as required by current County Code could disproportionately impact smaller development projects.”

The proposal was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“This is a helpful, important motion,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “This is a big turning point in terms of our ability to deal with managing growth and sewers.”

Image via Marco Bicca/Unsplash

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