A potential nonprofit has asked the Cleveland City Council to make an exemption to the local sewer ordinance for all nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations.
An ordinance passed last year requires Bradley County residents living outside the city who want to tap into the city’s sewer system to request annexation.
A statewide moratorium on annexation has limited annexation to only those properties that request to be accepted into the city limits.
A request to give an exemption to this requirement was made by Stacy Hayes to the Cleveland City Council during its meeting Monday.
Hayes requested the consideration for the change, so he could bring city sewer service to the unfinished mansion on the former Toby McKenzie property on North Lee highway.
“Everyone is probably familiar with the McKenzie house on North Lee highway … it’s probably 75 percent complete. What I want to do is acquire that piece of property and turn it into an underprivileged children’s home,” Hayes said.
Hayes is planning to purchase the property to establish a home for underprivileged children 10 and under who had been removed from their homes by the state.
He said state Sen. Mike Bell is researching what Hayes would have to do to become a recognized organization and meet all of the state requirements for such a facility.
The property is currently outside the city limits and would require a complex septic system to accommodate the number of children and staff Hayes hopes to have in the home.
The required 10,000 feet of fill line for the septic system would have a negative impact on the yard and could create health issues, Hayes said. Preliminary ideas for the facility would have up to 100 people, including children and staff, living in the home.
“What we want to do is make that thing look like Biltmore in the front … and then Six Flags in the back,” Hayes said.
The property is 800 feet from the city sewer system. Hayes said he was prepared to pay the costs associated with installing the system.
Hayes said he also would like to convert a building designed to be a pool house into a kitchen to provide meals to those who need them.
He is working with an architect to design a plan to bring the structure in line with state fire marshal requirements.
Pending legislation that would bring an end to all annexation by ordinance, even if requested by a property owner, is making the future of annexation uncertain.
City Attorney John Kimball suggested not making any changes until it was known if the legislation would pass.
Kimball said allowing an exemption for nonprofits should be researched before being considered. He said the city should also consider how other cities are addressing sewer extension issues, before making any changes to the ordinance.
A moratorium on annexation only allows annexation by request of the property owner. Hayes does not own the property; therefore, he could not request annexation.
On Tuesday , Gov. Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 2464, abolishing “annexation by ordinance at the initiative of the municipality.” A petition from the majority of the affected property owners or a referendum would be required for annexation.
Councilman At-Large Richard Banks asked if Hayes had an option on the property.
“No, we are going to buy that property as soon as we get our paperwork,” Hayes said.
Hayes is in the process of pursuing nonprofit status for Haven Hill Children's Ministries.
“I think you have a noble idea, but I still say the bank [that currently owns the property] should make the request,” District 5 Councilman Dale Hughes said.
Hayes pointed out that if a family bought the property a septic system would be fine. The number of people Hayes hopes to serve with the facility would be problematic, he said.
Changing the ordinance would allow 501(c)(3) nonprofits to avoid similar issues in the future, Hayes said.
The Council will not make a decision until after the future of annexation is determined.