I’ve received several emails from citizens who are concerned about Maryville City Utilities providing sewer service to the Pate Farm and Best Road residential developments in the county. I’ve been reviewing the policy, namely the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) agreement, that has provided the basis for this decision.
What is an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB)?
UGBs put a limit on how far out a city can expand to prevent sprawl development and encourage sustainable growth practices. It is a proven and critical tool for climate-smart growth near jobs and protection of natural land and water.
It is important to understand that a UGB determines where we build, not what we build. What is allowed to be built, including the density of what can be built, is determined by zoning. In the case of Pate Farm and Best Road, it is governed by Blount County zoning, not the City of Maryville.
For more information about our UGB, see pages 19-20 in the city’s Land Use Plan HERE.
Citizens have been asking good questions. The City Manager and his staff have been working hard to provide answers. Here are their responses to the most frequently asked questions:
WHY IS COUNTY PROPERTY ALLOWED TO CONNECT TO MARYVILLE CITY SEWER?
Our current policy is, if the development is inside the urban growth boundary, and the developer funds all expenses, and it is possible from a design standpoint, they can connect to our system.
As to decision-making regarding service, the Urban Growth Boundary agreement that includes Blount County and all municipal governments in the county, expresses urban growth (density) should be driven into the UGB’s of the cities. This would reduce sprawl and insure infrastructure could easier keep up with the growth. That is to say, put restrictions on growth in the county through zoning to restrict high density growth outside the UGBs. So the agreement has been we will serve sewer within the UGB as we have been doing for 20+ years. We won’t serve outside our UGB unless TDEC requires us to.
[Maryville City] Staff reviews every request from a technical perspective to guarantee the proposed line is engineered correctly and insure we have capacity as well as test the design to make sure it is a sound expansion plan.
WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY TO AGREE TO PROVIDE SEWER TO A DEVELOPER OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS?
The Urban Growth Boundary agreement sets forth where growth should take place. Maryville does not control zoning in the UGB because it is still county, but zoning is the tool to control density. The county never made a distinction on zoning inside or outside the UGBs for any city. Therefore, by UGB agreement, all governments agreed to growth in the UGBs and utility infrastructure being allowed. Only the county has the right to dictate the density through zoning.
DOES A SEWER SYSTEM ALLOW FOR MORE DENSITY THAN IF THE DEVELOPMENT WAS BUILT ON A SEPTIC SYSTEM?
Yes, by providing sewer the developer can build on smaller lots, subject to Blount County zoning regulations.
Note: I asked if Maryville does not provide sewer service to Pate Farm, could the developer connect to other sewer systems in the region. The answer was ‘yes.’
WHAT WILL BE THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ALLOWING THESE 2 DEVELOPMENTS TO CONNECT TO THE CITY SEWER LINE?
In every case, when asked to consider a request to connect to our system, we take a number of things into consideration, including impact to the rate payers, impact to our system and plants that would require an upgrade to our facilities and impact to the environment. In this case, there will be no impact to rate payers since the developer is funding the work; the impact to our system would not burden it or require a facility upgrade; and there will be positive environmental benefit by preventing septic fields.
CAN OTHER COUNTY PROPERTY OWNERS CONNECT TO THE CITY SEWER LINE?
Yes. Other property owners [within the UGB] can go through the same process if they want to connect.
It’s fair to question where Blount County has drawn its urban growth boundary. As I look at the beautiful rural landscape of Pate Farm against the backdrop of our beloved Smoky Mountains, I share in the grief…
But, I’m still waiting for my magic wand. Until they give me one, there are state laws that dictate the process for amending a UGB and implications beyond Pate Farm and Best Road to consider as we review the thoughtful growth plan we share with our elected counterparts throughout the county.
More to come.