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Development in Aberdeen likely to stall unless city commits to building new west side water tower

Without a commitment from the City of Aberdeen to build a new water tower west of I-95, officials say little to no new residential development is likely to happen in city limits.

Other than infill development, there are no opportunities for new residential growth in Aberdeen except on the west side of Interstate 95, Phyllis Grover, director of planning and community development for the city, said at Monday’s council meeting.

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There is land available in city limits on the west side for developers, including the Siebert and Adams properties that were recently annexed. A developer has proposed to build 450 single-family homes there, Grover said.

“Developers have said unless they have a city commitment for a water tower, they will not propose development in the city on that side,” she said.

Building permits hit a peak in 2015 when 53 were issued — “that’s gangbusters,” Grover said. Permits have fallen off since then.

Only 153 permits have been issued in the last five years and of those, 100 were three or more years ago, City Manager Randy Robertson said. In the last three years, Aberdeen has issued only 25 building permits for single-family homes.

“We really do need that elevated water tank on the west side,” Grover said.

Hookup costs for a new single-family home are $15,900 — $10,000 for water and $5,400 for sewer. With 450 units proposed on Siebert/Adams property, that’s nearly $7.2 million in revenue from hookup charges alone.

The west side improvements are estimated to cost $4.3 million to $4.5 million, Assistant City Engineer Parley Hess said.

The project includes an elevated water tank ($3.6 million); a connection to Long Lane to Nonpareil Road (nearly $400,000); a Northeast tank altitude valve and vault (about $188,400) and a third pump at the Plater Street pump station (about $72,700), he said.

The water tank would be located off Technology Drive, where research and development company Battelle is allowing the city to use its property, saving the city about $750,000, Hess said.

The Plater Street pump, while not necessary, would provide backup to the west side of the city were there to be a break in the existing line.

“It provides secondary access for water into the west side of 95. Any break in the [existing] line results in a shutdown of the water system for the entire area," he said. “The system is fairly new, the pumps are fairly new and the system is in good shape, we don’t expect it to break."

The city has several other capital projects to consider over they next three years, including the Aberdeen-Havre de Grace waterline interconnection and the Ray Avenue booster pump station improvement.

The link into Havre de Grace’s water system “has as near as we can tell stalled,” Robertson said, and the project has been on hold for the last two months.

The Ray Avenue project includes a new pump station to replace the Graceford Road booster, which is at the end of its useful life, Mayor Patrick McGrady said.

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Design for all three capital projects is funded, but the council must decide which it wants to move forward with before any more money is spent on any of them, Robertson said.

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