Southern Shores residents speak out against requested SAGA wastewater hike

By on March 19, 2024

(LtoR) NCPUC Public Advocate Davia Newell, Public Utilities Engineer (Public Staff) Lindsay Darden, SAGA Representative Bob Howsare, Atlantic Sewage Dave Roberts who handles site maintenance. (Photo credit: Kip Tabb/OBV)

A number of Southern Shores residents voiced their anger at a March 18 public hearing in response to a rate increase requested by SAGA’s Ginguite Woods Wastewater Treatment Plant for homeowners in Southern Shores Landing.

The requested increase would double the rate from $90 per month to $180, with a further increase to rise to $232 per month next year. The hearing took place at the Dare County Courthouse and was specifically designed to take the testimony of the property owners.

Anne Winstead, Hearing Examiner for the Public Utilities Commission explained that the residents of Southern Shores Landing would be represented by the public advocate of the Commission which, “has their own experts like engineers, accountants and attorneys to help them in the representation of the public.” The public advocate for the homeowners is Davia Newell.

The full hearing before the Public Utilities commission will be on May 7 in Raleigh.

The first speaker at the March 18 hearing was President of the Southern Shores Landing HOA Wayne Avery who stated that “probably 65 to 70 percent of the residents are senior citizens aged 65 and older” and live on a fixed income.

He also touched on another point that other speakers returned to a number of times—that although SAGA had invested in the plant, there seemed no end in sight of rate increases. “I realized that they put the money into it,” he said. “But now they want to double our rates, when is it going to stop?”

Matt Hubard was much more direct in his testimony, asserting that “They bought the plant knowing the condition that the plant was in, that it wasn’t functioning properly,” he said.

According to Hubard when SAGA purchased the property that included the wastewater treatment plant in 2018, the company knew the plant was failing, but nothing was done until an application to develop the property to the west of Southern Shores Crossing was submitted to the town of Southern Shores.

“The applicant has had the opportunity to make repairs and bring their sewage treatment plant up to the standard of which it should have been…Now that they want to develop their property, they’re looking for our community to foot the bill for that,” he said.

Hubbard in his testimony, also described the odor coming from the plant at “raw sewage that’s what it smells like.”

The wastewater treatment plant was included in the purchase of approximately seven acres along Ginguite Creek on the north side of US 158 after it exits the Wright Memorial Bridge in Southern Shores. In November 2023 the Southern Shores Planning Board voted unanimously to reject a special use permit (SUP) for a SAGA mixed retail and residential project on the site.

Much of the Planning Board’s denial of the permit application was based on the testimony of Southern Shores Landing residents, and a concern that the development would require a fully functioning wastewater treatment facility.

SAGA subsequently withdrew its request for a SUP for the site and have indicated it will resubmit the SUP for approval when the wastewater treatment plant is fully operational.

At the March 18, hearing retired state worker Linda Sears described her neighborhood as “a community of friends and family that look out for each other,” adding that, “I’m not getting a raise with my retirement to pay for SAGA’s mistake.”

Susan Johnson addressed Public Advocate Newell directly telling her, “I would hope and pray that you have our backs…because we’re a little community.”

According to statements that SAGA CEO Sumit Gupta made at a Nov. 20, 2023 Southern Shores Planning Board meeting, SAGA has invested at least $700,000 attempting to bring the plant into compliance.

SAGA’s representative, Bob Howsare, gave testimony in support of the rate increase at a hearing on March 11 according to Hearing Examiner Winstead.



Comments

  • Regpepper

    I wonder how Gupta feels being the most hated developer around here. Also one of the most irresponsible property owners. Build houses in no time then no maintenance on them. Money hungry.

    Tuesday, Mar 19 @ 8:34 pm
  • Steven

    Saga Destruction

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 5:23 am
  • WBN

    SAGA is slowly destroying the OBX.

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 7:51 am
  • RicknKDH

    Public utilities should be just that for a reason.

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 8:20 am
  • Steve Johnson

    Isn’t this an example where someone was actually harmed by the Developer’s claims when buying the property?? Unlike some other very public figure getting charged for harming no one? Oh forgot, those folks actually made money on his promises…But in this case it appears- Promises were made and citizens are paying for it instead…

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 9:02 am
  • Charles

    With those monthly bills for wastewater treatment how much are residents paying for fresh water?

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 9:56 am
  • Paul

    It is frankly unacceptable to go from $95.00 to $ 180.00 , and who knows how far Saga will go .!!
    Saga knew when the purchase was made , what condition the waste water plant was in . Hence they had to spend the $ amount to get it up to par.
    As was pointed out earlier , most folks in Southern Shores Landing are senior citizens with fixed income and to have our waste water bill double is a hardship to say the least.

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 12:54 pm
  • Sean Mulligan

    It sounds like SAGA made an investment mistake and now they want to make someone else pay for there mistake.Maybe they should sue whoever they bought it from in the first place.

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 1:04 pm
  • Jay

    Let this be a lesson to all who oppose a big developer like SAGA. Always find out what the ramifications could be before opposing any development project. That is the unintended consequences like your monthly sewer bill being increased 2.5 times in a year or so.

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 2:38 pm
  • Kitty Hawker

    Backlash for denial of their rezoning application – classic case of sour grapes….

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 3:17 pm
  • Eric

    Thank you OBV for keeping the comments open. It has to be hard with everyone complaining but it is so entertaining. What I’m getting is that people bought into a HOA owned by a corporation and expect them to to be charitable and pay for everything. SAGA has a reputation that we all know and it’s your own fault if you expected something different. If you don’t like them stop buying their product. They offered me work and I 3x my price because I’m not a fan and guess what, I’ve had to find work elsewhere. May not be a good buisness decision but at least I won’t be complaining about them ripping me off on here.

    Wednesday, Mar 20 @ 9:51 pm
  • Linda

    @Eric, not quite. The HOA is not owned by a corporation. The sewage plant that serves the community was sold to Saga when it purchased the parcel of land it occupies. The homeowners have every right to complain.

    Thursday, Mar 21 @ 9:41 am
  • Dethrol

    Eric, you’re spot on. A lot of the same folks involved here who want to establish dominion over public roads to establish an enclave where there isn’t one and never has been. Yet another manifestation of their failure to perform due diligence before buying homes. Caveat Emptor!

    Thursday, Mar 21 @ 11:04 am
  • Curious

    So what happens if the facility is shut down due to non-compliance? Had SAGA not purchased it, what was the alternative plan to keep the community up and running with water treatment? Someone would have to pay for it. If not SAGA, wouldn’t it be the HOA?

    Thursday, Mar 21 @ 12:33 pm
  • WindyBill

    You Southern Shores Landing folks shouldn’t have protested the nice SAGA development plans. This ‘ill teach you.

    Thursday, Mar 21 @ 2:16 pm
  • Less wind Bill

    The real question the Southern Shores Landing owners need to ask their “advocate with the government is how much is the other user paying? Why should SAGA be charging the owners of Southern Shores Landing 100% of the cost of improvements when Southern Shores Landing only uses a small percentage of the plant? If someone is screwing someone on this deal it’s not SAGA doing the screwing it’s your government not taking care of the people they are supposed to take care of.

    Friday, Mar 22 @ 11:33 am
  • Notanisland

    SAGA What a fitting name!!! Boy the acronyms that come to mind are full of kindness and words of encouragement

    Saturday, Mar 23 @ 10:29 am
  • Steve Johnson

    Open up the contract when they purchased. If it was true they bought it with the understanding and agreement they were to repair the system, then they owe for improvements. Not the citizens who turned down their request to over-build tenement housing next to them. One is a right to deny, the other simply lives up to their reputation…they profit unreasonably. The hilarious thing is Trump got screwed on a development which benefited everyone involved. By that standard we should be taking SAGA property by now for undervaluing (lying) about the value of the landing. It was worth much less than they paid after all!! No, we shouldn’t be paying for their mistakes.

    Sunday, Mar 24 @ 7:02 pm
  • Larry

    Sounds a lot like sellers remorse. Maybe the home owners should have been a little more involved from the beginning. I’m sure it sounded great when they were all getting a brand new sewage plant and someone was going to foot the bill. It appears the blame lies directly on the association for not reading the fine print. Saga is a large corp. and of coarse they are going to look out for their bottom dollar just like any other company. Not to mention Saga has given back to this community much more than most… Its certainly unfortunate , but maybe the community should have fixed / replaced their own system and they would realize the cost invested in them.

    Wednesday, Mar 27 @ 10:45 am