Two months after concerns about sewage spills threatened to delay development, DeKalb County has begun approving plans from businesses willing to work around its aging sewer system.
DeKalb officials recently gave the go-ahead for a medical building and a townhome community, according to government records provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution upon request. The businesses submitted sewer action plans and will be responsible for the costs.
They’re the first new developments to have sewer plans approved by the county since its computer modeling indicated capacity limitations earlier this year.
Both will be allowed to store sewage in underground tanks and then release into the county’s system when there’s little danger of a sewage overflow.
The county is reviewing more of these plans as roughly 100 potential restaurants, stores, apartments and other businesses have expressed interest in moving into the county.
For years, DeKalb County has had problems with sewer spills caused by a decaying sewer system, increasing development and rising populations. The more businesses and residences using the system lines, the higher likelihood of spills.
“The action plans are providing individual developers with a path forward for their projects,” said Margaret Tanner, deputy director for the DeKalb Watershed Management Department. “So far, we haven’t had any major hurdles that have stopped anyone from moving forward at this point.”
Besides the holding tanks, DeKalb officials and developers are also discussing other options, such as small water treatment plants and on-site water re-use systems. Some developments will avoid adding strain to county sewer lines by demolishing existing structures, and the county plans to clean sediment from old pipes to restore capacity.
Neither of the two approved developments disclosed the cost of their sewage plans.
One of them is a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta medical office building in Brookhaven.
Engineers for CHOA proposed a deep underground detention basin that can handle 27,500 gallons of storage per day at the planned Center for Advanced Pediatrics. In addition, demolition of existing buildings will gain 31,000 gallons per day in sewer capacity on the site. The county accepted the proposal Oct. 25.
“We did work with DeKalb County, and those issues are on track to be resolved so we can move forward with the Center for Advanced Pediatrics,” said CHOA spokeswoman Erin Singer.
Construction on the facility, which will provide specialized, coordinated and multidisciplinary care to children, is scheduled to begin in January and last through June 2018.
The other approved action plan is for 39 townhomes in Chamblee called Ashford Place. The county will allow the project to proceed with a 23,400-gallon-per-day holding tank that discharges into the sewer system during off-peak hours, according to an Oct. 26 letter to developers.
“Anything outside the norm is a burden, but it’s not tremendously expensive,” said Jim Bowersox, vice president of land acquisition and development at real estate company Lennar Atlanta.
The county initially mailed sewer capacity evaluation letters to five developers earlier this year, but then backed off those notifications after finding that its new computer model that measures capacity wasn’t always accurate.
Then in September, the AJC reported that the county had identified 11 development sites with sewer system limitations, mostly in areas of the county where the most business growth has occurred in recent years.
Now, DeKalb officials say sewer capacity constraints appear to be spread throughout the county. They’re working to improve its computer models and evaluate developers’ proposals, Tanner said.
“These types of solutions are common where you have capacity constraints,” as in Atlanta, which also is improving its sewer infrastructure, she said.
No developers have been turned away, and county officials said they anticipate they’ll likely approve more action plans in the coming weeks.
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