Union Co. towns faceoff against county in wastewater battle

In western Union County, wastewater is so limited developers can’t get permits for new construction projects.
Union County Wastewater Concerns
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 12:46 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Town and county leaders are squaring off against one another in a battle over how to handle growth and wastewater capacity in Union County. The tension has been building for a couple of years as developers and builders are unable to apply for new construction permits in many towns in the western part of the county.

Weddington’s council recently unanimously passed a resolution asking the North Carolina General Assembly to create a new water district that would, essentially, allow those towns to bypass the county’s inaction and add their own capacity.

The resolution asked “the North Carolina General Assembly to eliminate the crisis in our county created by the Union County Board of County Commissioners.”

Leaders in Marvin and Waxhaw have also passed the resolution. The Union County Chamber of Commerce passed a subtler version of the resolution.

“We’re each being affected differently by these decisions that the Commissioners have made,” Weddington councilmember Jeff Perryman said during the town meeting.

The towns and areas that are impacted the most by the wastewater capacity issue are part of the Twelve Mile Creek district. According to Union County, 95.5 percent of the wastewater capacity for the county’s largest wastewater facility is spoken for when including construction projects that are permitted for but not yet completed.

The resolution requests for the NCGA to intervene in several ways:

- Require the Union BOCC to utilize an existing contract with Charlotte Water which allows Union County to send three million gallons per day of sewer flow to Mecklenburg County.

- Require Union BOCC to follow its adopted Water and Sewer Master Plans to construct new infrastructure.

- Create a new public utility district to replace the current Union County managed district.

As it stands, Union County is only actively pursuing one project to increase wastewater capacity in Twelve Mile Creek. It could take up to two years to complete and construction hasn’t started.

WBTV sent emails to Union County’s state legislative members Dean Arp, Mark Brody, David Willis, David Craven and Todd Johnson asking for their position on the issue. None of the elected leaders responded.

The Union County Board of County Commissioners responded to the towns’ resolution with one of their own, asking for state and federal authorities to conduct an investigation into property ownership and business interests of relevant elected officials in the towns.

“I’ve been to Waxhaw and try to explain this to them,” County Commission Chairman Stony Rushing told WBTV. “That makes me think, well, do any of these people have investments in other places?”

WBTV interviewed Rushing about the ongoing drama surrounding wastewater capacity and his reasons for slowing expansion.

“They can build approximately 5,0000 to 6000 houses in the Town of Waxhaw,” Rushing said. “The problem is a paper problem.”

Rushing is talking about construction projects that are already permitted but not completed. But developers who want to apply for permits for new construction in this area could have to wait.

Rushing described it as a big town vs small town dilemma.

“Your little town that doesn’t want to grow so fast, you’re protected, that you do have some capacity in case somebody wants to come with commercial or residential property,” Rushing said.

“Big Town that wants to grow fast and exceed their school capacity and road capacity and sewer capacity, you need to think more about your decisions.”

However, Rushing’s message on growth has been fluid depending on the audience.

During a Town of Waxhaw meeting, Rushing told elected leaders he’s one of the most “progressive development commissioners” in Union County history. Two years ago, he also told WBTV that developers should start looking toward other counties to continue the growth surrounding Charlotte.

The problem is bigger than just new homes and new businesses though. There are unresolved questions about wastewater capacity as it relates to building a new jail,