San Rio developers fined for sewer permit violations

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SHALLOTTE—One of the developers of the San Rio project on Gray Bridge Road has been fined $10,000 plus $835 in enforcement costs for installing sewer lines without a permit.

On Friday, Shallotte received notice from the North Carolina Division of Water Quality stating Sandler at Shallotte LLC, had “knowingly and willfully” decided to initiate construction of the sewer lines before the pending application was approved in October.

After learning of the construction, the town reported the violation to the state. The state indicated either the developers or the town could be fined as much as $500,000.

In his response to the notice, attorney Thomas Johnston of Ward and Smith, P.A., defended Sandler’s action, saying the sewer line construction was limited to private property owned by Sandler or “performed within road rights-of-way with the prior permission of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“None of the lines that Sandler or its contractors have constructed are owned by the town, nor have they been offered for dedication to the town.”

Because the lines have not been connected to or a part of any sewer system, treatment works or disposal system and will not be until “dedicated and accepted by the town under a properly issued permit,” the construction of the lines did not violate N.C. General Statute 143-215.1 (a)(2), which prohibits constructing or operating “any sewer system, treatment works, or disposal system within the state.”

But in its findings, the DWQ stated, “Based on on-site observations and conversations with the developer’s representatives, it was determined that approximately 60 percent of the sewer line requested in the application had been installed without a permit.

“Statements made by Mr. William Sutton onsite, as well as subsequent documentation provided by the law firm of Ward & Smith and the Town of Shallotte, indicate that the decision to initiate construction was knowingly and willfully made by Sandler at Shallotte LLC approximately 60-90 days prior to the discovery of said activity by the town.”

Despite the fines, agent Jim Wisemen of Wakefield Coastal, the local development entity, said the decision is not going to have an effect on the project.

“We feel good about our position that we did not install and connect to a sewer system,” Wiseman said. “We felt like we would be welcome in Shallotte, and it appears that we have to struggle with the town and that’s unfortunate. We are in the town, and we look forward to a great project.”

Town administrator Paul Sabiston said the fine was about what he expected.