Weddington residents ask county to reconsider decision
Weddington residents say they understand the need for water pressure, but wonder why the solution is a water tower in their backyard. Members of the Providence Acres and Stratford neighborhoods came before county commissioners Monday, Aug. 15, asking the county to consider an alternative to building a 198 ft. tower, replacing it with water tanks.
“There is a definite need for water pressure,” Weddington resident Craig Hurt said. “The problem I have is the tower is going 1,000 feet from my house.”
The water tower is scheduled to be built at 247 Providence Road South, part of a 9 acre lot the county paid $793,803 for. Once the Weddington town council voted to approve the county plan, the contract to buy the property was triggered. Earlier in the year, the county had put down a $20,000 deposit, in return for an option to purchase the land.
The Providence Road property appears to meet the town’s land ordinance requirements for an essential public service site: a minimum 40,000-square-foot lot area and minimum 120-foot lot width.
Public Works officials expect the 1.5 million gallon tank to improve static pressure and fire flow in the western portion of Union County during peak demand. It will cost an estimated $1.5 million to build. The current design of the town however call into question exactly how much impact such a water tower will have on Weddington. Only 18 percent of the town’s 73 subdivisions have fire hydrants, which draw from the nearest water source. Additionally, 80 percent of homes use wells instead of county water. Of the town’s subdivisions, 60 of the 73 use only well water.
Nearby residents however want the county to change the way the project looks, replacing the tower with ground storage tanks. They also request a 60 ft wall, to block the water tanks from view. The catch is that those tanks would cost more, driving the price of the project up to $6.18 million, that’s $1.5 million more than what a water tower would cost. The reason being that the tower’s height helps direct and guide water flow. Ground level tanks would require a pump station to be installed.
Neighbors feel that the change is needed, to alter what they see as an eyesore and potential safety hazard.
“When we chose to move to Union County, we did so because the R-40 zoning would protect our way of life,” Providence Acres resident Kathy Davis said. She told commissioners about how she grew up in a place with woods and creeks and felt a water tower would take away from that.
Other neighbors expressed their opinion that property values around a water tower would drop, meaning the county would get less each year in tax revenue, unless they increased the tax rate. Others also mentioned their concern about children playing in a park near such a structure.
Money for water towers comes from the Public Works enterprise fund. In order to keep the utility self-sustaining, money collected from water and sewer bills is saved up, to help with the cost of capital projects for the department.
Hurt promised that the county take money from the enterprise fund, to pay for half the increase needed to build the water tank and pump station. Then the board should work with Weddington to get the town council to pay the other half. If split evenly, that would mean both sides paying $750,000. That’s nearly double the amount required to fully fund renovations for the Providence Fire Department Station and it would leave the town of Weddington close to the limit of what they’re required to keep in their General Fund by state statute.
County commissioners made no decision during the meeting. Speaking later with Union County Weekly, Weddington Mayor Nancy Anderson said she endorsed the water tanks idea.
“I believe that is the optimal decision,” Anderson said. “They were only complaining about the visual image and with tanks, we can fix that.”