Town May Opt Out of Storm Sewer Plan

BLYTHEWOOD – In a special called meeting last week, Town Council discussed its options regarding the Town’s recent designation by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as a Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (SMS4).

“That designation,” Town Administrator Gary Parker told Council at an earlier workshop in October, “means that we will be required to manage a Storm Water Management Program for Blythewood. That is a very difficult thing for a town this size with limited staff and budget to be able to devote the necessary time to do the work required by such a program.”

At that time, Parker suggested the Town’s only feasible option was to take advantage of the opportunity to become a co-permitee with Richland County, which, Parker said, “does have the staff resources to conduct not only their county program but also the programs of municipalities within the county.”

Such a partnership could cost the Town as much as $50,000 up front through an Intergovernmental Agreement with the County.

More recently, however, Parker and Council members learned that they can apply for a waiver from DHEC to opt out of the program entirely. Councilman Tom Utroska questioned whether the SMS designation was too all-encompassing to include Blythewood at all.

Town planning consultant Michael Criss showed Council a map with a green boundary around an urbanized area that did not comprise all of the town’s limits. But Parker pointed out that the whole town might still come under the requirements of the SMS4 designation.

“It is possible that DHEC is considering the physically interconnected factor, which would require the inclusion of any small SMS4 located outside the urbanized area that contributes substantially to the pollutants loading into the physically connected SMS4,” Parker said. “That seems to be a hook DHEC can apply to the Town to bring all of the town into the area that is managed by the SMS4 water program, not just the urbanized area within the green boundary.”

Utroska called the plan a bureaucratic boondoggle, saying, “It may not apply to us, but they’re going to make us participate anyway. While we may fall into this designation down the road, we may not be there now.”

Mayor J. Michael Ross credited Parker’s research in determining that the creeks in and around the town mostly flow away from the town.

“The Town was built high on a ridge,” Parker said, “so we have small headwater streams radiating out from Blythewood like a wagon wheel.”

Parker said there is no doubt in his mind that, “we don’t want to take this on ourselves. It’s a comprehensive program that will cost much more than the $50,000 it will cost to join Richland County as a co-permitee.”

He suggested applying for a waiver and, at the same time, start the process of applying as a co-permitee with the County in case the waiver is denied.

The Town has until Dec. 1 to apply for a waiver. Once DHEC decides whether or not to give the waiver, the Town will have six months to submit a notice of its intent to DHEC.

Bonded Plat Approved

In other business, Council approved a bonded plat for the Holly Bluffs development near the intersection of Blythewood Road and Fulmer Road. The development was formerly called Summers Trace and the developer, Crowne Communities, was bought out by DR Horton last year. Approval of the bonded plat was recommended to Council for passage by the Planning Commission earlier this month.

“The bonded plat is a commitment by the developer and the Town to be sure all the requirements such as unfinished roads, storm drainage, sewer system, etc. will be completed on time to serve the residents who will move into the project,” Criss told Council.

Criss explained that if the projects are not completed by the developer in a set time, then the Town could use the bond money to finish the project. The time limit for completing the project is two years Criss said. The 61 single residential lots are being connected to Palmetto Utilities sewer system.

The submitted performance Bond was inflated 125 percent over the estimated costs of completing the development’s infrastructure, Criss said.

“That will take care of delays due to weather, inflation and other unexpected costs should, for any reason, the Town have to take over the project and finish it,” he said.

The developer was represented at the meeting by Jordan Hammond.

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