VOL. 133 | NO. 65 | Friday, March 30, 2018
City Tells Developers to Be Flexible On Sewer Flow in Fletcher Creek Area
By Bill Dries
City Public Works director Robert Knecht told developers Thursday, March 29, that their plans for development in the Fletcher Creek area should be "flexible" and include the option of temporary storage for wastewater because of sewer capacity issues in the area. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
Developers in the Fletcher Creek basin area should consider temporary storage of wastewater from their developments as they plan for construction, the city public works director told a group of 50 developers Thursday, March 29.
“We’re saying consider it now. Have flexibility in your plan to allow for that. We’re not asking you to wait,” Robert Knecht told those at the meeting at the FedEx Event Center at Shelby Farms called by the city of Memphis. “Given the fact that we have to be sure and we can’t allow things to happen without being 100 percent sure, then we are explaining this is an option that you need to explore now.”
The temporary storage, which will be at the developers’ expense, would hold wastewater until non-peak hours, generally 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for flow to city treatment plants.
Knecht said the considerations are probably a fact of life for the next three to five years as the city upgrades its sewer system under terms of a decade-long consent decree with federal and state environmental agencies the city has been under for five years already. The city will spend probably $350 million under terms of the decree and on its own on upgrading the capacity of the sewer system.
The city is specifically scrutinizing new developments served by the Fletcher Creek basin which is near capacity by the model the city is using to judge the amount of sewage flow from the area. The area served by the basin takes in parts of Cordova, Germantown Parkway as well as parts of Bartlett and Lakeland. Both of the suburban cities have existing evergreen agreements with Memphis for sewer services.
Knecht emphasized that the city is not turning down new development plans en masse in the areas. But he said the review could result in the city saying no to sewer hook ups for some developments with the temporary storage as one possible way around that decision.
“That’s what we’re talking about – the opportunity to discharge at non peak times,” Knecht said, in response to questions from the developers.
He also pledged “consistency and fairness” in the decisions and a 30-day turnaround in informing developers of his department’s decision following a review.
He also said projects in the pipeline before the city began to more closely scrutinize development in the Fletcher Creek area should be approved to start.
“It’s already in our model. So we think those projects don’t represent a problem,” he said. “That’s the general position I think with a few caveats.”
Several developers who didn’t want to be identified said after the session that they aren’t happy with the added step and additional details and planning. But they also said the city’s explanation provided a process to get projects done in the interim until the city renovates its existing sewer system and expands it as well to add capacity.
Those considerations are separate from the city’s decision last August to end sewer connections to the city system for new developments outside the Memphis city limits and the evergreen agreements the city has with the suburban towns and cities. While capacity concerns played some role in the edict, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has said that decision was motivated by a desire to see more development within the city limits instead of just beyond the borders of the city.