It was nearly midnight on Tuesday when the Belmont City Council decided to continue their discussion on the requirements for sewer lateral inspections and repairs to a future meeting.
Sewer laterals are the privately owned underground pipes that connect a business or residence to the city sewer system.
The proposed ordinance states that the home buyer has six months to repair the lateral and can buy the house before the repair is made as long as they pay a refundable deposit at the time of sale. The ordinance would also require mandatory sewer lateral inspections for home renovations of more than $50,000.
Public works director Afshin Oskoui gave an overview of the sewer lateral ordinance, including the six specific elements incorporated into the ordinance. In his presentation, Oskoui compared Belmont's proposed ordinance to those of nearby cities like Burlingame, Millbrae and Hillsborough.
Of those six elements, the point of sale, or POS, was the sticking point for those in opposition and a cause of concern for councilmembers. The repair of a sewer lateral could cost between $7,500 and $25,000.
Many realtors are opposed to the ordinance, stating that the requirement could turn away buyers and put sellers in the position of spending thousands of dollars in repairs.
"I would be appalled if the city approves this ordinance," said resident Peter Markovich.
"Right now if you have a problem with a sewer, you call a plumber and have it fixed. This is just adding one more cog in the wheel of running this city and just another revenue stream for the city," he added.
Paul Stewart, government affairs director of the San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR) voiced the concern of his organization.
"I urge the council to adopt everything proposed at the March 2012 meeting and abandon the tranfer of title or and not make the inspection mandate at the point of sale."
Adele Della Santina addressed the council as a realtor, a Belmont homeowner and a former planning commissioner and councilmember.
"The city should not become part of the home sale transaction. It becomes a real hardship on the sellers and the buyers," said Della Santina.
Vice Mayor Warren Lieberman was in agreement with Della Santina's concerns stating that POS would cause too much anxiety for the home sellers and buyers. He suggested a simple disclosure form be presented at time of sale.
"I don't find myself in a place where I can support POS," said Lieberman
"I don't see a clear path on this," said Councilmember Dave Warden, and asked city staff what other possible options were available.
And Mayor Christine Wozniak asked the city staff to come back with more quantifiable information on testing methods.
The council will likely continue the discussion of the ordinance at a meeting in April.
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