The levies held Tuesday night as two votes by McMinnville officials ended in stalemates. Under consideration was breaking city policy and paying for a property owner’s stormwater abatement measures.
“To my knowledge, in the 16 years I’ve been with the city, the city has never done this type of work for a commercial or retail entity,” said McMinnville Public Works assistant director Brad Hennessee. “Stormwater abatement should be included in the construction costs, not paid for by the city.”
Under construction is a new office by Dr. Jeffrey McKinley that will be located on the corner of Caldwell and Mullican streets. One of the requirements placed on the project when the construction permit was issued last year was the installation of gutters and curbing as water run-off measures.
State law, from which the city’s ordinance derives, requires the evaluation of a construction project to determine the effects it will have on stormwater runoff, as well as how adjacent property owners will be affected. If construction will negatively affect stormwater/ neighbors, the property owner is required to incorporate water run-off measures into the project.
After reviewing the construction plans to determine its effect on stormwater in September 2012, consulting engineers James C. Hailey & Company recommended including the construction of “a curb and gutter on Caldwell Street and wrap around the intersection to tie to the curb on Mullican Street to collect the discharge water on Caldwell Street and direct the flow down grade.”
McKinley agreed to the requirement and the city issued a building permit. McKinley says he has had time to reconsider since September, which spurred his request before a joint meeting of the city’s Finance Committee and Street and Sanitation Committee on Tuesday night asking the city do the work and pay the cost.
“At the time the permit was granted, a requirement was made that I must pay the cost of installing curbing and guttering on Caldwell Street from my property line to the corner of Mullican Street,” said McKinley. “This is along a city street and along property that I do not own. I am requesting the city of McMinnville install this curbing and guttering.”
McKinley says he has paid $2,322 for a building permit and $2,446 for a tap fee for the new construction. He says his building completion will add $2,000 per year in property tax on top of the more than $1,000 he currently pays in property tax per year.
“As a taxpaying citizen and a taxpaying business owner with the city, I’m requesting the city do the curbing and guttering,” McKinley said. “I just feel like the tax money we are paying for city streets should be something that’s done by the city for its citizens.”
Alderman Rick Barnes asked how many new employees would be hired, to which McKinley replied, “We will be hiring two additional professionals to work in that office. When we have those on board, we hope to add two more support staff.”
Alderman Ken Smith questioned salary range.
“The two professionals will be in the range of $200,000 a year,” said McKinley. “The support staff will be adding another $60,000.”
Current policy says the city cannot allow someone developing a piece of property to discharge more stormwater than in pre-development conditions, nor can it allow stormwater to leave one’s property and enter the property of another. Hennessee says those conditions exist and should not be confused with economic development.
“I think we are confusing the issues of economic development with stormwater regulations,” he said. “I’m not sure it matters how many people work at that facility. I’m not sure that effects the amount of stormwater that might leave that property and go onto another property. It appears we are heading toward economic impact.”
Smith agreed, “I think you are right. We are looking at the economic development of the city. If it comes down to economic development, every action that this board takes and every action every department should be saying is ‘I want to create industry’ and ‘I want to create jobs’.”
City attorney Tim Pirtle says the department is trying to enforce state law, as well as local law.
“You cannot construct improvements to your property that divert the natural flow of surface waters or accelerate the natural flow of surface waters onto downstream landowners,” Pirtle said. “It’s actionable as a civil matter. The city’s department is not only enforcing local ordinance, but local ordinance derived from state law.”
Paying McKinley’s cost will be opening the stormwater flood gates on future construction, says Alderman Billy Wood.
“To Brad’s point, everyone else has had to do this,” Wood said. “It’s nothing against you, Jeff. You knew this going into it. What do we do if another Walmart or a Home Depot comes in and they need thousands of feet of mitigation. Then, we will be forcing taxpayers to subsidize someone else’s project.”
Smith added, “Am I saying we should do this for everyone? No. Here, we can see it’s for economic development. I’m talking solely about commercial. Wouldn’t you have done Walmart? How much has Walmart paid in property taxes?”
“That’s not the issue,” said Wood. “This issue is everyone else has had to get the same permits and do the same work. Now, we want to change the same rules and verbiage. This is good old boy politics. It is what it is. We want to change the rules for one guy.”
Smith denied the allegation stating, “I don’t want to change it for one man.”
Barnes interrupted stating, “We have run out of time and we’ve beat this horse enough. I would like to have a motion on what we need to do.”
When no motion came, Barnes added, “Well, I’ll make a motion that we do this work at the city’s expense.”
“I will second that, with the caveat that we make sure we are not breaking any state law,” said Smith.
Alderman Mike Neal questioned of Pirtle if the city would be opening itself to litigation if it paid for McKinley’s stormwater mitigation but chose to not pay for other businesses. Pirtle said he was not sure.
The motion failed with a vote of 3-3. Voting for the measure were Barnes, Smith and Alderman Jimmy Bonner, while Wood, Neal and Alderman Ben Newman voted against it. Newman said he would prefer to know the legalities of the decision prior to making it.
Bonner made a second motion for the city to do the work with McKinley reimbursing for labor and materials at a cost estimate of $2,350, which failed in a similar tie vote.
Before McKinley can obtain a certificate of occupancy to use his new business, stormwater mitigation measures must be complete.