Developers who have been planning a housing development off of Sugar Hollow Road were turned down by the Pigeon Forge Planning Commission Tuesday night for a second time, denying approval of their plan which incorporates a ‘pump and haul’ sewage system.
When the proposed development—Alpine Mountain and Village—was given preliminary approval, problems related to the city’s ability to handle the extra sewer capacity were unbeknownst to both the city and the developer.
“We didn’t even know of the sewer problems until December,” said developer Rod McCarter who, again, approached the commission Tuesday night with a similar plan, but only looking for approval for 15 lots as opposed to the 45 lots proposed in February.
The city is currently working to replace and expand the sewer line servicing this area according to the city’s Public Works Director, Mark Miller, who said that the project is going out for bid next month.
As a temporary solution, the developers are proposing to institute a pump-and-haul system in which the septics are interconnected and are pumped and hauled off the site to a treatment facility.
The plan was turned down by the city planning staff and the city attorney because the developer had not yet obtained a permit from state officials in time for Tuesday night’s meeting.
“We’ve reduced the number of cabins by almost two-thirds, we increased the number of tanks,” said McCarter. “To me it’s just a matter of a formality in waiting on a piece of paper.”
“This whole situation with the pump and haul is new territory for everyone,” said Community Development Director John Jagger. “Our understanding is that this is something that is probably doable through the state through their regulations but I don’t think it’s accurate to refer to it as a formality or waiting on a letter. They’ve indicated to us that it’s more of a process than that.”
Overall, the city seemed willing to allow the practice, but held reservation due to liability issues.
“We have no objection to this as long as they have the necessary state permit and contract with a licensed hauler,” said Jagger.
Pigeon Forge’s City Attorney, Jim Gass, said: “From the city’s legal standpoint, I’ve got to say what a dilemma this puts this city in, if this board approves this and then TDEC (the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) does not ultimately approve it.”
“I believe that if you approve this without that permit or without some document saying that this permit is being issued then the city has some exposure to liability,” said Gass.
In a final plea, representatives of the developer asked if final approval could be granted for their development contingent on reception of the permit within the next 10 days.
The request was, however, denied as the commissioners stuck to the advice of the city planning and legal staff. “I don’t think that contingency would hold up in a court of law,” said commissioner Robert Young.
Commissioner Keith Whaley concurred: “This kind of puts us in a tough spot—makes us look like we’re the bad guys here. Based on the advice of our staff and city attorney, we’re back to the same argument we had last month.”