By Alex Bridges
A Strasburg property owner's question about water service to an older part of town spurred a wider study of public utilities in other annexed areas.
Town Manager Judson Rex explained recently that property owner Wayne Turner came to the town last fall inquiring about utility access for lots along South Virginia Street that he wants to sell. The town annexed the area of the street years ago but never extended water service lines to the properties. The town would need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to extend water lines to the dozen lots, according to information from Rex.
Town Council's Infrastructure Committee has asked staff to investigate the matter to see if Strasburg must extend lines to the properties, as it does with newer annexations.
"Initially, when you look at undeveloped part of the community, the burden of extending services usually falls upon the developer in a subdivision," Rex said. "We looked at [it] initially that way and said if you want to develop it and build homes there you're going to have pay to extend the water and sewer service."
But Turner's situation is different, Rex said. The lots are already there, created before the town annexed the property.
"We're exploring different options to see what we can do to help out the property owner," Rex said.
Town staff members are conducting research to determine when exactly Strasburg annexed South Virginia Avenue. Some people have estimated the annexation took place in the late 1950s, Rex said.
"That's kind of where it originated," Rex said. "But there are other parts of town that have buildable lots that don't have water and sewer right up to the lot, so there'd be some expense for the town to extend water or sewer to the lot."
Land taken into Strasburg through more recent annexation comes under an ordinance in place that calls for the town to extend water and sewer service to those areas within five years, Rex said.
Once the town extends water and sewer lines close enough to property lines, the owner can pay to connect to either or both services. The town charges availability fees to cover the cost of connecting the utilities to the homes or businesses. The users then pay for the utilities.
"Building a whole new water line where there is none now is not a cheap endeavor," Rex said. "The other challenge there is that South Virginia Street is not a fully developed street, so it's not built to our current standards.
"If we're going to be digging in the right of way, we'd have to do some road improvements there as well," Rex added. "There are a few things to look at there as far as what's driving the costs."
Extending utilities down South Virginia Street could cost between $300,000 and $400,000, according to preliminary estimates provided by Rex. The town would provide utilities to only about a dozen properties.
"In terms of return on investment, it's not real positive," Rex said.
The committee has not made a decision on whether or not to recommend the town extend utilities to South Virginia Street. Members voiced concern that taking such action may set a precedent and could spark other property owners to ask for water and sewer.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org