City council, housing developers clash over sewer issue


CW / Dalton Counts

Dalton Counts, Contributing Writer

A defunct sewer line has halted the construction of HERE Tuscaloosa, a student housing complex to be built on the edge of the University of Alabama campus. City leaders are at odds with the developers of the complex, unable to decide where to lay the blame and subsequent responsibility for the line. 

On Oct. 1, the Tuscaloosa City Council Public Projects Committee voted to delay a decision on the HERE Tuscaloosa sewage problem, as chairman Kip Tyner recommended to suspend the vote until Oct. 22. 

HERE Tuscaloosa was approved to be built in February 2019 on the northwest corner of Sixth Street, just west of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Construction was halted when a faulty sewage line was discovered during an environmental impact report. CA Ventures, HERE Tuscaloosa’s property management company, was told it could not be built until this problem was fixed. 

The company proposed to fix the line and then be reimbursed by the city. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is against this, arguing that the project was the developer’s responsibility. General fund dollars would have to be used, making the service fee $418,000. 

Maddox said that this was a plan not to fix the sewage line, but to build apartment complexes.

Brian Winter, an attorney representing CA Ventures, argued for the city supporting the project. He said he respected Maddox, “but couldn’t disagree with him more on this policy.” 

Winter claimed that the clay pipes were subject to burst at anytime. He then described a nightmare scenario in which The Strip was flooded with sewage on a big game-day weekend, asking what would happen when 10,000 students who occupied residential areas around the location couldn’t flush their toilets.

“It just makes more sense for the city to take care of this now rather than later,” Winter said. 

The vote was tabled because of a special election for HERE Tuscaloosa’s district, which will take place on Oct. 8.