Most Hearing Speakers Want Homes Before Plant Bond

SNOW HILL – Summerfield developer Mark Odachowski’s bid to begin building houses before bonding Snow Hill’s new wastewater plant might be successful if the overwhelmingly positive reaction of speakers at a public hearing this week is any indication.

Odachowski asked the crowd at Snow Hill High School Tuesday night to support his request to modify the annexation agreement for the Summerfield land to allow him to begin building 300 houses and put off the sewer plant bond.

The Snow Hill Mayor and Council will consider the request at its Dec. 11 meeting, and could have another public hearing before then.

The developer does not have the capital to raise the bond money now with the housing market in a downswing. Odachowski attempted to downplay the financial dilemma, saying the economy is not the primary issue underlying his request, and that he is confident the housing market will return.  He wants to build those houses, Odachowski said, because Snow Hill needs to grow and be revitalized.

Spray irrigation field testing will take some time, delaying the wastewater project a year or even two, he said.

“I’m looking for direction,” Odachowski said. “One way or another Summerfield is happening.”

Those 300 homes would need 300 units of wastewater. Under some calculations, the town’s aged wastewater plant has those EDUs, which the developer would pay for.

The majority of the hearing’s capacity crowd came out strongly in Odachowski’s favor, citing his willingness to meet the town’s requests, the Odachowski brothers’ generosity to the town and the business they have already brought in by moving their Royal Plus Inc. headquarters to Snow Hill.

“We don’t want piecemeal development,” said Ann Coates, president of SHARP (Snow Hill Alliance for Responsible Progress). “I’d much rather put my eggs in the basket with him.”

“We need to keep our tax rates down and continue to grow,” said resident Randy Epp. “I’m behind it 100 percent.”

Jane Moore, an employee of Royal Plus, urged Snow Hill’s elected officials to agree to the change.

“Jobs can be created. Affordable housing can be available. I’m asking you to grant those EDUs,” she said.

Resident Carl Milburn also supported it, saying, “We need to keep our money here. We need jobs. I want a job. I want to build my own house.”

Family Service Center owner Mark Nixon said the growth associated with this project is critical.

“Bottom line is we need the growth. It’s the only thing that’s going to keep us going in town,” said Nixon.

Gary Weber, a real estate agent, has doubts about the housing market. One development in Snow Hill, Morgan’s Purchase, has been on the market but made little progress.

“They have had properties for sale for three years now and they’ve sold eight,” Weber said.

Weber, who unsuccessfully ran for County Commissioner one year ago, challenged the town council to explore other avenues in tandem with Odachowski.

“Let’s be a partner and let’s not sit back and wait for a developer to come in and pay for our services,” he said.

Charles Colburn questioned what has changed with this project.

“I voted that this man would have a bond before he started,” he said. “Take this before a referendum to the people of Snow Hill and see if they really want to continue with the annexation as it really was or if they want to amend it.”

County resident Jeff Bacon said Odachowski has not kept his promise.

 “That was the promise he made to the citizens of Snow Hill, that he would build the plant before he built a single house,” Bacon said. “If you give him a little bit of time, the time will come when he asks for a little bit more time and then he’ll ask for more concessions.”

The town turned down federal funds to upgrade the sewer plant, Bacon said, and if Odachowski is allowed to put off the new sewer plant, the state will force the town to do it.

“That’s going to make every citizen in town pay that bill,” said Bacon, who lives outside town limits.

Former County Commissioner candidate Dennis Klingenberg said Odachowski has not said when the wastewater plant would be back on his radar.

“How much longer are you going to continue to pollute the river with that old treatment plant?” asked Klingenberg, who also lives outside town limits.  “Time is ticking on that current discharge permit. You’re not going to get a free pass forever.”

Harold Scrimgeour, another former candidate for commissioner, warned that it could take years for Odachowski to use up those 300 EDUs and that the town needed some way to assure the funds are there to build the new plant, such as increasing hook up fees.

Less than 10 new EDUs have hooked up in Snow Hill every year for the last several.

“At that rate, expect your new sewer plant in 30 years,” said Melissa Bacon.

“Time is of the essence,” said Kevin Douglas. “What we need here in Snow Hill is a wastewater treatment plant.”

Douglas questioned some of Odachowski’s assertions, but got no reply.    

“What businesses are you building to provide jobs besides what we already have? What will be the cost of the [most] affordable house?” Douglas asked. “I think the best idea is to bring this to a referendum.”