By Matt Blois

Thompson’s Station agreed to buy 170 acres of land for about $3 million at its Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting this week to add capacity to its sewage treatment.

The city plans to pump treated effluent onto the land where it will drip into the soil. The board’s was split two in favor and two against, and Mayor Cory Napiers cast the tie breaking vote in favor of the deal.

Many cities have a sewer treatment plan that eventually dumps the treated water into a stream, but Thompson’s Station does not have access to a waterway large enough for that method. Instead, it allows the sewage to break down in two large ponds, and then drips the water from those ponds onto unused land. Right now, the city only has 28 acres where it can drip its treated water. Adding the new land will allow the city to grow.

The two ponds and the 28-acre field can adequately handle all of the city’s wastewater now, but Thompson’s Station has already given developers permission to build another 3,100 houses. To handle all of the sewage from those new homes the city needs more land. According to Napier, the city would need to buy between 10 and 15 acres a year just to keep up.   

But land is hard to come by in Thompson’s Station, which only covers about 18 square miles. The drip fields have to meet absorption requirements from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The fields have to be flat and outside of flood plains. In other words, the best land is exactly the kind of valuable real estate that developers want to build homes on.

Napier said the city has been waiting for an opportunity to buy more land for a long time.

“We can’t kick the can down the road any longer. We’ve been looking for land for years, and we’ve got this opportunity,” he said. “The good news is we’ve saved up a lot of money in the last couple of years … and we’re in a position to buy it.”

Napier said the the new land gives the city some peace of mind that its sewer system will keep functioning for the foreseeable future, but he added that some residents don’t like the deal because it seemed to open the door to new development. The amount of land that the city purchased would allow the sewer system to handle all of the homes the developers are already planning to build plus additional homes.

The city is going to buy this property from Encompass Land, the same developer that built the Canterbury subdivision. If Encompass wants to build more homes they will need to connect those homes to the sewer system. But the city can’t accommodate more homes unless it buys more land.

So, Encompass bought a piece of property that would work for the sewer system, and then sold it at a low price to Thompson’s Station. At a Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s meeting in November the board approved a bond to fund the purchase of the land, but earlier this month residents sent the board a petition calling for town wide vote on the issue.

Encompass didn’t want to wait for a vote before selling the land, so the developer came back with a better deal. Thompson Station has already given Encompass permission to add 310 more homes on Sedberry Road and in the Canterbury subdivision in exchange for giving the city a good deal on the land. On Monday, the company offered to pay a little over half of the city’s fee for connecting its future homes to the sewer system up front. The fees added up to more than $1 million in cash. That cash meant that the city wouldn’t have to take on as much debt to buy the property.

The total cost of the land is just over $3.1 million. The city will use $480,000 in cash from the sewer fund, the $1.1 million offered by Encompass and a $1.5 million loan to pay for the project. At the next meeting on Feb. 13, the board will kill the bond it issued for the project in November.

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