The latest north vs. south debate over sewers was put to rest Tuesday night when officials unanimously approved a once controversial piece of legislation that allows properties adjacent to the county's existing sanitary sewer network to connect, as long as capacity is available.
Initial versions of the ordinance would have made the connections possible only north of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, sparking outrage among the county's two southern councilman that their districts would not receive the same environmental benefits as their northern counterparts.
Land Use officials, however, feared extending the connection opportunities south would allow housing developments to leapfrog a planned sewer service area between U.S. 13 and U.S. 301.
After more than three months on the shelf, a compromise was finally reached that would allow hookups for any institutional use - a church or a school - in any part of the county, as well as any small commercial or residential property considered "minor" under county code.
Large residential developments outside an existing sewer service area are not able to hook in.
NCCo sewers by the numbers
60,000,000 Daily gallons of wastewater
1,600 Miles of pipe
150 Pump stations
"We just tried to bring out the fact that there were situations south of the canal where properties - a new school for example - could benefit from tying in to an adjacent sewer system and we wanted to make sure the environmental benefits were extended to all of the county," said Councilman Bill Bell (D-Middletown).
"This is an environmental piece of legislation," said sponsor John Cartier (D-Holly Oak). "It's designed to allow connections to sanitary sewer for parcels that might otherwise be resigned to large septic fields."
One property that could benefit from the new legislation right away is the new Pilot School proposed for Mt. Lebanon Road in Brandywine Hundred. From a vegetated green roof to solar heating, the building is designed with the most modern in green technologies. Until now, however, it would have had to be built on a septic system, even though there's a sewer pump station, with plenty of excess capacity, directly across the street.
"It's just good public policy," said Pilot School developer Jerry Heisler of the Reybold Group. "To put a septic system there instead of sewer would have been foolish."