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Commerce Township Residents Fight Construction Of ‘UFO’ Water Tower

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Artist rendering of the proposed water tower in Commerce Township.

Artist rendering of the proposed water tower in Commerce Township.

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COMMERCE TWP. (WWJ) - It’s a new proposal to build what many are calling a “UFO” looking water tower in Commerce Township. But as WWJ’s Kathryn Larson learned — not every neighbor wants it in their backyard.

Ramzi Faraj and other neighbors are going door to door this week, spreading the word that they’re worried the new water tower will ruin property values.

“I’ve been in the mortgage and realty business for 20 years,” said Faraj. “A water tower will in fact reduce our home values because it is visible. It towers above actually some of the nicest developments in all of Commerce.”

The proposed location for the 150-foot tall, two-million gallon water tower is behind (to the south of) Commerce Fire Station No. 1, at the corner of East Commerce Road and William Carls Drive. Officials say this location was chosen out of 11 other sites because it has the highest elevation in the township.

The township says the water tower is needed to minimize peak use period charges — which usually occur in the morning and evening – by drawing water from the tower instead of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) supply line. Water will then be drawn from the DWSD system during non-peak times to refill the tank.

Officials say township residents currently pay one of the highest rates of any DWSD customer, and the tower will help lower water bills. According to officials, the tower would save the township approximately $1.3 million per year on the wholesale purchase rate of water from the DWSD.

Officials also say the installation of a water tower will stabilize water pressure within the distribution system and provide a reserve source of water in case of emergency.

“We thought we we’re doing everybody a favor. A water tower helps to keep pressure in those water lines, and helps prevent the system from breaking,” said Township Supervisor Tom Zoner.

Faraj says neighbors he’s spoken with would prefer to have a ground water system installed. But Zoner said that plan would end up being just as much of an eyesore.

“It looks like a pancake, a great big pancake, and it takes up a lot more ground area,” said Zoner.

But Faraj said the design of the proposed water tower is just as bad.

“I’m beyond worried. Horrified, I guess, is the right term,” said Faraj.

Commerce Township’s Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the proposed water tower on Feb. 12. If the proposal passes, work on the tower site would be expected to begin by the end of 2013. The facility would be completed by the spring of 2015 so that the DWSD water rates can be adjusted in 2016.

Zoner said the total project is estimated to cost $5.8 million and will be paid for by the water system capital improvement fund, not tax payer money.  He said the project will have a payback of less than five years, based on information provided by the DWSD.

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