WEDDINGTON – The long-awaited Weddington water tower could be stalled once again after a group of 32 town residents filed a lawsuit against Weddington, the Weddington Planning Board and Union County.
The residents believe the county and town did not follow proper public processes and procedures before selecting a location and before the Weddington leaders approved the conditional zoning permit on Hemby Road behind the Providence Volunteer Fire Department, Chris Duggan, the group’s attorney, said. Although Union County Public Works only filed an application to the town for the Hemby Road property, many other locations, including behind the Weddington Corners shopping center, were discussed at some early public meetings.
“To have a 179-foot-tall water tower in a residential area goes against our land-use plan for open space in a rural community. If it’s placed there, it’s going to be an eye sore,” Waybridge resident Linda Watt said. “Every one of us on the suit believes there should be water storage for everyone, but it should be in keeping with the Weddington land-use plan.”
Union County Public Works has been working for at least seven years to find a location in Weddington for the water tower. The town’s previous council approved the conditional zoning permit for the Hemby property on Oct. 14 after more than six months of meetings and discussions with public works and residents citing the need for higher water pressure for the Rosehill and Stratford Hall developments, as well as other developments on the north side of town, and for the fire department.
“This is an essential service and public safety issue,” Councilwoman Pam Hadley, who voted in favor of the county’s application, said. “There are 829 undeveloped lots that have been approved or in various stages of being approved. Each home that is built means less water pressure for existing customers, not to mention less pressure for fire hydrants that are already experiencing dangerously low pressures.”
The county did not return calls for comment by Union County Weekly’s deadline. It’s unclear how long, if at all, this will delay the project, if the matter will come before a judge or what the next step in this process will be. Mayor Bill Deter hopes the residents, town and county can find an alternative solution without going to court. Deter signed the petition, which sought to stop the development of the water tower on Hemby Road and move the project to another location or use ground storage as an alternative, prior to being elected in November.
“Just my opinion, if they had gone with even ground storage tanks at the Hemby site location, I don’t think you would have a lawsuit,” he said.
Even if the lawsuit does lead the parties involved into a courtroom, Hadley is confident that the town staff and attorney would not have let the council violate the proper process or procedures prior to taking a vote on the application. During the public meetings and public hearing, many residents, as well as Duggan, encouraged the council to chose an alternative location, like the town center, or the use of ground storage, but Hadley said the council could only vote on the application submitted by public works and had no say in altering the application once submitted. The town did adopt a nonbinding resolution in favor of the Hemby site on May 13 after the county requested a preference from the council.
County officials preferred a tower because it is more difficult to tie ground tanks into the public works system, and tanks are more expensive than building a tower.