A fluid situation

Published 8:35 pm Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wilroy neighbors wonder about their water

The city says it is investigating a possible violation of the family transfer ordinance that is causing deep trouble for a handful of neighbors off Wilroy Road.

One of the neighbors, Azalea Spruill, brought the problem to the attention of the City Council several months ago when she spoke during the meeting about the well issues she and her neighbors had been experiencing.

Azalea and John Spruill say they are considering court action to remedy a situation with the well they shared with three of their neighbors.

Azalea and John Spruill say they are considering court action to remedy a situation with the well they shared with three of their neighbors.

The group of four houses off a private lane came into being in 1998, when the lot was subdivided into four parcels via the ordinance.

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The family transfer ordinance is meant to help families in rural areas stay near each other, but it contains a number of restrictions meant to keep it from being abused for profit.

Among those restrictions — properties can only be transferred to family members, and the recipients must hold onto the properties for 10 years before selling.

However, Spruill and her husband John brought their home in 2006, two years before it was supposed to be available for sale.

“The city’s going to investigate,” Azalea Spruill said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The issue came to light when the residents of the original home moved out, and the electricity was cut off on Sept. 5. That meant the shared well the four houses used no longer worked.

With their water cut off and the city threatening to condemn the homes if they couldn’t get water, another neighbor ran power from his home to connect the well.

A well agreement the homeowners relied upon seems to be void, since the original owners no longer live there, Spruill said.

“To me, this isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” she said.

Most papers related to the case, including the original family transfer, were done by Jesse Johnson, a local attorney and husband of Mayor Linda T. Johnson.

Spruill has dug up city documents from when the transfer was done, saying the homes were supposed to be served by city water. Apparently, that requirement was ignored for years.

“How did it go from city water to shared well?” Spruill said.

Spruill says she has “gotten the runaround from the city” and now is considering taking the matter to court.

At this point, any possible fix for the predicament likely won’t be cheap.

The Spruills cannot put a well in their own yard because of the location of their septic drainfields. A connection charge and availability charge to connect to city water service would cost $3,370, after a $3,250 environmental incentive reimbursement they would initially pay out of pocket.

On-site plumbing improvements to connect to city water at the property line also would cost money. Spruill said a neighbor whose house fronts on Wilroy Road has refused an easement to let the line pass through his yard.

That leaves the Spruills and their neighbors in a rough situation.

“Nobody knows how to fix it,” she said.