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Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, has withdrawn a bill that would have established circumstances under which cities would have been required to extend sewer service to communities in their extraterritorial jurisdictions.

Davis introduced House Bill 1549 to address the need for sewer service in developments that cities have planning authority over, but opponents said it would strip cities of local control.

The bill would have required municipalities to extend sewer service if a nonresident property owner or consumer requests the service, provides easements, has paid for the infrastructure, and signs an agreement to be annexed eventually into the municipality.

On March 13, Davis amended the bill to remove its contents. He withdrew the bill Tuesday, and the House's City, County and Local Affairs Committee recommended the bill for study.

On Friday, Davis cited March 7 action by the Little Rock city board as his reason for withdrawing his bill. The board approved carrying out two studies on the effects of extending sewer service beyond city boundaries and into extraterritorial zoning jurisdictions.

"I was appreciative of them taking a step forward and recognizing at least the need to study and consider that option," Davis said. He said he'll wait and see what the studies conclude.

The bill appealed to people, including west Pulaski County resident Joe Carter, who opposed having private wastewater-treatment plants, which often are accused of being noncompliant, installed near their neighborhoods. Carter is a member of Citizens of West Pulaski County, which has opposed a proposed plant on Fletcher Creek.

Carter said Friday that he thought the bill had helped get Little Rock to consider the effects of extending sewer service.

Little Rock city directors had expressed dismay over the bill, and members of the Arkansas Municipal League pushed the board to oppose it.

A developer or property owners association may sign a pre-annexation agreement, but a city may not have to approve it for it to be valid, said Mark Hayes, legal director for the Municipal League. That means a city could be required to extend service and eventually annex property that city leaders may not want.

"From a planning perspective, you may not want to or cannot or don't have the ability to take in new territory right now," Hayes said. That could be for a number of reasons, including issues with extending other services or conflicting city priorities.

City Director Lance Hines opposed House Bill 1549 because of the lack of local control it provided to cities.

He proposed a resolution for city directors to authorize the Wastewater Utility to study extending services into the extraterritorial jurisdiction. City directors passed it earlier this month, along with a proposal by City Director B.J. Wyrick for a study on how extending sewer service would affect the city.

Metro on 03/25/2017

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