Are you ready to pay up to $20 million for sewer expansion to help a Grosse Pointe developer plop a giant subdivision into the Ann Arbor School District? 

Next Tuesday, November 11th, your Board of Trustees meets in joint session with your Planning Commission to discuss the Steaming Turd that landed squarely in the middle of somebody's dreams of endless asphalt. 

On October 27th Northfield Township's long time engineering consultant, Tetra-Tech, delivered its report on our sewer system's ability to handle the sewage from a possible development of 1475 homes in the rural Southwest corner of our Township.

The short answer is that serving those 1475 homes will vacuum up almost all the spare capacity in our system, leaving virtually nothing for anybody else.  I'll spell out the implication of that.  If you were counting on using the sewers north of Biltmore's proposed Ann Arbor School District mini-city to facilitate development in the many areas around Whitmore Lake already Master Planned for residential development, you're out of luck.

Approving Biltmore's plan makes your property worth less.

You can read the TetraTech Report and previous studies here.

Northfield Township's wastewater treatment plant was originally built to serve the Maxey Boys School, then adapted to preserve Whitmore Lake and Horseshoe Lake from pollution.  As a result of lawsuits, in addition to serving Green Oak Township, Hamburg Township is also owed some of the wastewater treatment plant's capacity.  Nobody knows what percentage of an enlarged plant's capacity would be theirs or could be adjudicated as such.

You can read the legal agreements binding the three townships who share control of the Northfield Township wastewater treatment plant here. You will also find documents from the many lawsuits fighting expansion of the treatment plant.

I have been asked where the $20,000,000 figure came from.

The calculation starts here, with the following cost numbers on page 2 of Tetra Tech's October 27 memorandum to Township Manager Howard Fink.

"Tetra Tech believes Northfield Township could add up to 1,900 residential equivalent users (abbreviated REUs with one REU being equivalent to one single family home) connections before the MDEQ would request the Wastewater Treatment Plant to be expanded."


"The existing North Territorial Special Assessment District (SAD) was constructed in year 2000 and consists of a collection sewer, pump station, and 12 inch diameter force main to Eight Mile Road.  These facilities were sized to accommodate the approximately 1,500 REUs that were projected to be constructed within the SAD limits."   "The pump station and force main were not sized for additional connections beyond the limits of the SAD."  "An opinon of cost was prepared in 2003 that places a value of $2.28 million on the next improvement.  The cost will be larger in today's dollars."


"During development interest in 2005, the Township requested Tetra Tech to prepare a cost opinion for a plant expansion (to a capacity of 2.25 mgd) and construction of a storage basin.  The opinion of cost for that improvement was $12.7 million.  Given the age of this opinion and changes to state law regarding the sizing of storage basins, the cost would be significantly larger today."

In other words, Biltmore's 1475 REUs will use up essentially all the capacity built for the SAD, as well as over 75% of our treatment plant's remaining capacity.  (That's assuming that Hamburg and Green Oak agree, which they won't.)  This leaves little capacity to serve future development, neither in the North Territorial SAD that the 1500 REU capacity was intended to serve, nor in the areas around Whitmore Lake already master planned for residential density, unless we pay the massive costs of sewage plant expansion and wholesale re-piping of the system.

$20M?  Just a SWAG.  Start with a greatly enlarged treatment plant costing "significantly larger" than $12.7M.  Add that to the millions needed to double the capacity of pumping and piping out of the North Territorial SAD, just to restore it to its original objective, that of serving 1500 REUs.

I should change the headline to $20-$30M.  After all, this is government work; we know which cost will win.