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Residential development moves forward in Richfield

A new set of houses just got closer to construction in Richfield.

At their last meeting, the town council unanimously granted local contractor Barry Byrd permission to install a sewer system at a development on West Main Street.

Byrd has been planning to build houses on the 11 acres of land since 2017. However, lingering questions — including how to handle sewer at the site — stalled progress for nearly a year.

A lot of those questions revolved around whether the development qualified as a major subdivision. If it did, Byrd would be responsible for a number of costly requirements such as sidewalks and curbs.

Town policy also stipulates that any new residential development pay $5,000 (per house) for sewer installation, major subdivision or not.

However, since each of the lots would sit along at least 100 feet of pre-existing road, the proposed project did not qualify as a major subdivision, town staff said.

Without that classification, councilors agreed to move forward with subdividing the three lots at the site. While Byrd originally requested the lots be divided into seven parcels, it was divided into six (two lots per driveway) earlier this year.

However, the costly question of sewer installation still lingered.

With six lots on his hands, Byrd was looking at a $30,000 bill to have that done by the town.

“I think I can do it for less,” Byrd said. “If I can do it myself.”

In fact, Byrd is highly familiar with the town’s sewer system. As a former town councilor, he was in charge of the system for years.

“I also have a certified plumber lined up to oversee all the work,” Byrd said.

Despite that, councilors were still hesitant to approve the idea at first. Back in November, they said such a move would set a precedent. If they allowed Byrd to install his own system, they’d have to allow other developers a chance to do that as well.

However, at their meeting Monday night, councilors felt the benefits outweighed those concerns.

Due to the nature of the lots Byrd is working with, it would likely cost Richfield more than $5,000 per house to put in sewer there, Town Administrator Carolyn Capps noted. And any additional costs would have to be offset by town funds.

“As long as this isn’t costing us anything I don’t see why not,” said Mayor Terry Deese.

In addition, the town could use Byrd’s system for future developments out that way, others pointed out.

“The town is essentially getting a (sewer) extension at no cost,” Byrd said. “To me that’s a benefit to the town.”

So after further negotiating, the town agreed to allow Byrd to install his own system if he would pay a $2,700 road bore fee, and a $500 tap-on fee per house.

“If someone else wants to do the same (in the future), we will look into his background and development history and make sure he had a licensed plumber,” Capps said.

As for Byrd’s next steps, all that remains before construction can begin is some formal paperwork. Once he files building and zoning permits with both the town and the county, Byrd can move forward with development.

“From what I see, it’s a win-win for everyone,” Byrd said.