The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen SERVICE DENIED: The Hot Springs Board of Directors put the development of the second phase of the Crossing at Thornton Ferry apartment complex on hold Tuesday night.

The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen SERVICE DENIED: The Hot Springs Board of Directors put the development of the second phase of the Crossing at Thornton Ferry apartment complex on hold Tuesday night.

Board denies service request

By David Showers
This article was published April 20, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

The Hot Springs Board of Directors declined to honor a 2005 resolution Tuesday night that granted water and sewer service to an apartment complex in the planning area as capacity concerns during times of peak water demand continue to shape the city's utility policy.

The board voted 4-2 to deny a resolution approving an application to connect 176 new units at the Crossing at Thornton Ferry to the city's water and wastewater systems. District 3 and 4 Directors Becca Clark and Larry Williams voted in the minority.

The board adopted a resolution in December 2005 that granted service for 288 units, but only 112 were built. Approvals from the city planning commission and Arkansas Department of Health for the full development have since lapsed, and complex owner and developer Chris Thornton has sold the 7-acre parcel where the 112 existing units were built. He told the board Tuesday night that the 2005 resolution allows his family to develop the second phase of the complex.

The board was scheduled to rule on the application in September. Thornton rescinded it in hopes of negotiating a voluntary annexation of the area, but the attempt failed. The board decided to put Thornton's request on Tuesday night's agenda despite adopting a new utility connection and extension policy in October that delegated approval of such requests to city administration.

"We understand the construction permits have expired," the Conway-based developer told the board, explaining that the recession during the end of the last decade put phase two on hold. "But we didn't just have a permit. We had an official city of Hot Springs resolution to provide water and sewer service to the full scope of the project."

Dylan Potts, Thornton's attorney, told the board his client has spent more than $100,000 to extend sewer lines to phase two and build concrete driveways, investments he said were predicated on the understanding that Thornton would be able to develop the second phase.

Thornton said his sale of phase one was also based on that understanding, telling the board he sold the property at less than its value because he expected to recover the cost by developing phase two. Property records show phase one was sold in September 2008 for $6.2 million.

"We believe (Thornton) relied on the city," Potts told the board. "We believe there are constitutional rights involved from a taking standpoint, a detrimental reliance standpoint."

The engineering firm Thornton contracted to model the added demand from the new units indicated the water system has adequate capacity to meet the need, which the hydraulic model showed as 34,320 gallons per day during times of average demand. City Engineer Gary Carnahan told the board demand would be 102,960 gallons per day during peak times, or the equivalent consumption of 93 three-bedroom homes during peak demand.

Deputy City Manager Bill Burrough told the board that the model doesn't account for prolonged periods of hot, dry weather such as the kind the city experienced during the summer of 2012, when the city's two water treatment plants were operating at peak capacity.

Burrough said more than 1,500 additional connections have been granted since then, and the city has obligations to serve more than 1,000 lots that have yet to be developed. The city also provides water to Mountain Pine, the Diamondhead community, the Royal Water District and is contracted to supply the North Garland Water District in the event of an emergency.

The city's water withdrawal agreement with Entergy Arkansas Inc. gives it an allocation from upper Lake Hamilton not to exceed a 90-day rolling average of 20 million gallons a day. The water system is also supplied by the city reservoir at Lake Ricks. According to the health department's 2016 sanitary survey of the water system, its two treatment plants have a combined maximum capacity of 28.33 mgd.

Average daily demand was 15.12 mgd last year, and peak demand was 20.11 mgd. The city announced Tuesday it will sign a water storage agreement next month with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an additional 22.75 mgd from Lake Ouachita, but Burrough told the board it will take several years before the infrastructure is in place to treat and convey the additional supply.

"If 2017 is a summer like we had in 2012, we don't have capacity to do anything," Burrough told the board, explaining that capacity issues make all requests for new service problematic, even those submitted by entities inside the corporate limits. "If we have a hot summer, 30 days of 95 degrees and no rain, we don't have enough water to supply what we have now."

Potts called the capacity concerns a "red herring," telling the board that the hydraulic modeling Thornton commissioned proves as much.

"This is not a capacity issue; we've done the testing," he said.

John Rogers of B & F Engineering Inc., the firm Thornton contracted to prepare his application, told the board a 3-inch water meter would likely be needed to serve phase two. He said it's the same size meter that serves a large hotel. The new utility connection and extension policy the board adopted in October allows connections of a five-eighths inch meter anywhere in the city's service area, which extends beyond the corporate limits.

Williams, the District 4 director, told the board that the apartment complex's proximity to the corporate limits factored into his support for Thornton's application.

"(Phase two) is a portion of a county street and one parcel from being able to be annexed," he said. "I'm planning to vote for this resolution tonight. It's consistent with our amended policy. It's within the planning area and the costs of upgrades will be paid by the developer."

Local on 04/20/2017
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