New city policy stops sewer hookups in the county

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Millions, even billions of dollars in Shelby County development is at stake, according to County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

That's if the city of Memphis doesn't compromise on a recent policy decision to stop sewer hookups in unincorporated areas of the county.

County leaders said they've seen no signs the city is willing to bend.

"We, however, are not chumps," said commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer. "Right… so we want a fair deal."

Frustration is now mounting among county commissioners and Mayor Luttrell.

At an update discussion Wednesday, the mayor said city officials and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland haven't indicated if they'll make exceptions to their new sewer policy despite ongoing talks.

"We just haven't nailed down exactly what that resolution is," Mayor Luttrell said.

The city put out the policy in mid-August stopping new commercial and residential sewer hookups outside of its limits immediately.

Wednesday, we learned developers started calling county officials in the weeks prior to the formal policy announcement with concerns about sewer permits and why they weren't being approved by the city.

County officials said they asked the city what was going on, then the statement came out.

The county maintains there are 70 developments of varying sizes affected. Leaders say massive economic development is effectively on hold.

"It could be in the billions," Mayor Luttrell said.

"Did they just decide to put it in place and not tell anyone, and we got snake bit by it?" said commissioner David Reaves.

The mayor and his staff say they want to work with the city on a transition plan for new sewer hookups, but that plan would need years to roll into effect and would not be immediate.

When asked if litigation was on the table, Mayor Luttrell said the county isn't focused on that now.

"What we're all about is getting this resolved," Mayor Luttrell said.

The City of Memphis issued the following response:

"Mayor Strickland has been meeting with every developer, interested group, and suburban mayor who has requested a meeting and may be affected by the city's sewer policy. Additionally, our attorneys will make sure we meet all our legal obligations."

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