A California resident trying to sell his rental property in Terre Du Lac seems to be in limbo as he says the homeowner’s association has stymied the sale of the property until sewage improvements are made.
Mike Cook, a California resident, said that when he bought the property in 2004, the homeowner’s association board approved his purchase – the board has first right of refusal for all property sales, he said - but told him if he later decided to sell it, he would have to install a septic tank to replace the original sewage lagoon system already on the property. The house was built in 1970 when the lake development was just getting started.
Sixteen years after his purchase, he says, the new board has told him the home must connect to the Terre Du Lac sewer system before the presently-vacant rental property can be sold and occupied.
“I contacted TDL water and they came out and measured how far it would need to run lines. They said they would contact me when they figured out the cost,” he said. “I was told I would be responsible for the cost.
"However this would also drive up the price of all the lots it runs past for obvious reasons. However, TDL water does not have the staff to do this project and even if they could have never gotten back to me.”
Not so, said Mike Tilley with Terre Du Lac Utilities Corporation.
He said they could provide Cook with an estimate on how much it would cost to connect 1689 Napoleon Dr. with the sewer system, although it would involve about 1,000 feet of line and the estimate is just that — any company would have a better idea of how much the project will cost once the earth is moved and the pipe is laid out.
Tilley said even though the corporation is going through the Public Services Commission process of selling, the work to connect 1689 Napoleon to the sewer system can still be contracted out, and the projects TDL Utilities undertakes are done at cost, there’s no profit to the utility company.
“All he has to do is come up with the money and contact us,” Tilley said.
Duane Patt said he is familiar with the situation and while he regrets the added expense to Cook, the homeowners association’s hands are tied.
“The man has a pipe running out of his house. There is no septic system whatsoever. There’s raw sewage running out of the ground. It’s illegal to have raw sewage running out on the ground. That’s the bottom line,” he said of the original sewage lagoon.
“In Terre Du Lac, we have Terre Du Lac Utilities, and we, the association, don’t own the utility company. But everyone out here has to tie on to TDL Utilities,” Patt said. “I mean, you can have your own LPP engineered sewer system. But (Cook) seems to be wanting to get by with no sewer system at all. He’s wanting to sell it, but we can’t have raw sewage on the ground.”
Cook said he talked to an official with the Department of Natural Resources who told him as long as he was making improvements to the lagoon, he could sell, since the property was built in the 1970s.
But, Cook said, the DNR official later said it wouldn’t be possible since TDL Utilities is in litigation for violations. It’s in its 10th year of litigation with DNR and the Missouri Attorney General’s office on allegations it allowed sludge from its wastewater facilities to enter Big River tributaries, although Tilley said the work on hooking up the house to the sewer line can be handled by contracted parties.
Cook later shared an email Patt sent late Monday morning saying Cook couldn’t be stopped from selling the property, it just couldn’t be occupied legally without the updates to the sewage system, and an occupancy permit could not be issued until the updates were made. Patt sent another email apologizing for the inconvenience.
“At this point,” Cook said. “I feel like I’m stuck. I can’t get an occupancy permit unless I hook into the sewer line, but I call Terre Du Lac water and they don’t return my calls, and all I want to do is sell this property I just renovated.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.