Monticello City Council approves large annexation of property

by Anna Thayn

A discussion on the annexation of Monticello turned into a hot topic at the September 26 meeting of the Monticello City Council. Annexation of property owned by George Wythe College was unanimously approved by the council members present, but not before a lengthy discussion.

Several questions were raised regarding the obligations the city has by annexing the property. City Manager Trent Schafer said the city is not obligated to install water and sewer lines in the annexed area. He said there will be a feasibility study and the City may seek grants to put infrastructure in the area. Schafer said the City is not committed to any more than garbage pickup at this time.

City resident Frances Barton questioned the credibility of the college and whether or not the council researched it properly. Several members of the council said they looked closely at the college, including visiting the campus and meeting with students.

Barton said that the city has “quite a record of being taken... and I think we owe that to the people of this town to look into this thing a little bit and not obligate ourselves to something we can’t afford.”

Mayor Doug Allen said the city did get taken in a previous project, but said the project with George Wythe is vastly different. Allen said the city will continue to look at it closely and extensively.

Resident John Evans questioned the cost on the project to date. Schafer said it is around $1,500. Evans asked why the Council was in such a hurry.

Mayor Allen said, “I can’t guarantee this is going to work, I don’t think George Wythe can guarantee it’s going to work, but we all hope it does and we all ought to work together to try and make it work.”

Councilwoman Cassie Boyle said that there is risk with any project. She said she has visited the college and felt that they had integrity and good character.

Part of the annexation is for a 300 lot subdivision, the sale of which will help the college raise money to build. Schafer said the city will not provide services to an area not annexed in the city. Council members asked how many people would be willing to buy lots with no city services.

Other residents asked if the tuition would be too high for local students. They were told that the college will offer tuition breaks to local residents. George Wythe College will offer a seminar in Monticello on October 26-27.

Councilman Jeremy Hoggard said he has no problem with the college, and no concerns with anything other than water issues. Hoggard estimated it would require an additional 9.72 million gallons of water per year to support a 300 home subdivision. He asked where the additional water will come from.

Schafer said these are the reasons the city is anxiously engaged in water projects, specifically the current project on the mountain. Schafer said the goal is to meet the city’s water right, adding that the water right would have enough water for 10,000 residents. He added that the city is working for more underground sources, spring development and water storage.

Schafer said, “If we want 100 residents to use all of the water off the mountain, then I guess that’s what we do, but if we have enough water to provide for a healthy, vibrant, growing community, that’s what we’re doing.”

Barton said all he hears is how we have to conserve water and questioned adding more homes to the community. Schafer said Monticello residents use more water than the state or national averages and that is why residents hear so much about water conservation.

Mayor Allen said that the city doesn’t have the capacity to deliver an ounce of water to George Wythe property right now. He added that the annexation “enables us to hopefully move forward in economic development and growth in this city that would be very beneficial.”

In other business, City resident Rowland Francom asked about the water billing process at his trailer park. Francom said residents are double billed with a flat fee for each home and also for water use.

He said his home bill is $49.73 for 6,000 gallons while a unit in the park pays $70.02 per month. Francom said that most of his renters have a low income and pay more for utilities that a regular home.

Francom asked if individual meters could be installed and residents billed for their individual use. Schafer said the city can’t read meters inside a trailer park as it would require them to access private property. He said that the City help find meters at a reduced price that the property owner could install for each lot in the park.

Mayor Allen suggested that the park owners and city crews identify and eliminate leaks in the water system.

Assistant City Manager Greg Martin presented a proposed increase in building permit fees. Martin suggested that the council adopt the most recent version of the building valuation table and allow automatic inflation adjustments each six months, if needed.

The prior fee estimates that construction costs $56.53 per square foot, while the building valuation table estimates the cost per square foot is $94.99. The council unanimously approved updating the cost per square foot valuation, and automatically adjusting every six months.

In other business, the council approved a sign ordinance to regulate lighted signs in the city. The new ordinance prohibit some types of flashing, blinking or strobing lights on a lighted sign. The intent of the ordinance is to allow message center-type signs with subtle wording changes, but to eliminate distracting blinking lights.

The council also approved the annexation of the Golf Course/Mill Site property, and a one lot subdivision at 481 South Woodland Way.

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