Sapulpa City Council votes to change sewer rate structure for apartments

Sapulpa City Council voted unanimously at its regular Monday night meeting to change the rate structure for sewer utility services for apartment buildings. 

This item has been discussed at various committee meetings and at two different council study sessions. The Administration and Finance Committee met on September 14, 2020 and voted unanimously to recommend adoption of the ordinance proposed for consideration. 

The change goes into effect on January 1, 2021 for apartment buildings with more than 100 units, April 1 for apartment buildings with more than 50 units, and July 1 for all remaining apartment buildings. The proposed ordinance does not alter the manner by which sewer usage is currently calculated and applied to an apartment building, but rather whether the usage is charged per living unit or per meter.

City Manager Joan Riley explained that this has to do with multi-unit housing, apartments, or quadplexes. She said, “The common practice has been to charge per unit a base rate; this takes these units and makes the base rate from the meter.” To be clear, “As of July 1 there will not be charges per unit, but per meter.” Also important to note is that this is solely for sewer, not water, as “the majority of [apartment] complexes use one of the rural water districts for their water consumption.   

As reported previously, this has been an ongoing issue that has been carefully discussed by the city and local apartment building owners. Currently, there is one meter on most buildings and the city charges both water (where applicable) and sewer charges per living unit. Some local apartment building owners have requested a modified meter rate that assesses and charges rates for the entire complex rather than charging each individual unit. 

This will cause the City to experience a significant decrease in annual revenue, up to $200K.  The City’s objective is to find a way to balance that loss with a fair system for all real estate owners and residents. 

Three specific use permits (SUP) that were recommended for City Council’s approval at September 22’s Planning Commission meeting were approved at Monday night’s meeting. 

The first was for a commercial medicinal marijuana grow facility for Scotty and Falisha Leffler at 14517 West Highway 66. This was approved in a split vote of 3-2 at Planning Commission and Staff concurred with the recommendation. The dissenting voters agreed with a neighbor who worried about odors emanating from the facility, potential crime, and a negative effect on property values. The applicants amply addressed each of these concerns and received support from the councilors who voted 9-1 to approve the application. Lou Martin, who was the dissenting vote, said, “I think grow facilities are magnets for crime.” 

The next SUP was for a medical marijuana grow facility and a medicinal marijuana processing facility on 59th West Avenue in the Polston Industrial Park. Applicant Matt Phillips stated that the only processing they will be doing is for “pre-rolls” for marijuana cigarettes. He further stated, “We’re an environmentally-controlled grow operation with internal and external steel structures to enclose the processing space,” and said that they have more than adequate security measures and that they have followed all the SUP requirements given to them by staff. Urban Development Director Nikki Howard said that the staff approved this application and that this location is where they prefer to see this kind of operation. This was unanimously approved by the council.  

The last SUP application was for Lance Groenewold for a medical marijuana dispensary in the old Box Car BBQ building on West Dewey. Howard reported that “the owner is planning to maintain his digital marketing office in the building and to dedicate about 1,000 square feet to the dispensary.” Additionally, he plans to create a “1950s-era service station look to be cohesive with the nearby car museum and gas pump. The plan is also in conformance with the City’s comprehensive plan and is subject to all regular conditions of approval.” The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve this application and staff concurs with that decision.  

A couple of councilors were concerned that the applicant would not follow through with his plans to make the building’s aesthetics mesh with those of other local businesses on the Route 66 corridor. Therefore, the application was unanimously approved on the condition that the murals Groenewold plans to have done are finished within a year. 

RELATED: Sapulpa’s iconic Box Car BBQ location could become a dispensary.

Councilor Vickie Beyer encouraged those in attendance to contribute to the Sapulpa United Way Campaign. She named several local agencies that depend on United Way contributions, such as Caring Community Friends, Youth Services, Creek County Literacy, and the Salvation Army. Sapulpa is known for reaching its annual goal but is also likely to receive more money than it raises because the need is so great. 

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E. B. Thompson

E. B. Thompson

Elizabeth Thompson is the News Editor for Sapulpa Times.