Kingman family's sewer rules quest hits another wall

Family can't afford $23K for sewer connection

The third time was not the charm for Karen and Leonard Zeyouma, who had their request to amend the city's utility regulations denied by the Municipal Utilities Commission late last week.

This marks the second time the commission denied one of their requests. The first came when the couple asked to move their septic tank so that they may have more room to remodel their home.

Kingman utility rules require people who are on septic and want to add on to their homes to first connect to the city's sewer system if they live with 500 feet of an existing line. The estimated cost for the Zeyoumas to connect to the system exceeds $23,000 because their property sits 250 away from the line and nothing but vacant lots are in between, putting the cost to connect squarely on their shoulders.

Last month, the couple had asked to amend the law to say people whose building efforts don't increase flow or adversely affect the city's wastewater treatment system are exempt. Last week, the commission made its decision.

"(This law) is impeding our chance to improve our home," Karen Zeyouma said.

Sandwiched between the two denials from the commission was a denial from City Council, which voted to uphold the law and not provide an exemption in June after the couple appealed the commission's original decision.

The Zeyoumas aren't opposed to tying into the sewer system, but they are opposed to improving other people's property to do so.

The commission looked at the amendment proposal about a month ago, but the discussion was tabled because the Zeyoumas had brought up several laws that, if applicable, could've sidestepped the whole connect-to-the-sewer-if-you-want-to-build predicament.

She brought up Title 24 of federal code, which contains the Fair Housing Act, and pointed to the portion that prohibits discrimination because of a handicap.

Leonard Zeyouma's disability is essentially the reason why the couple wants to build in the first place.

According to the law, "It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to permit, at the expense of a handicapped person, reasonable modifications of existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a handicapped person, if the proposed modifications may be necessary to afford the handicapped person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling."

Then she brought up Proposition 207, which Arizona voters approved in 2006.

The law largely protects people's property rights by curbing the governments' ability to use eminent domain.

But Karen Zeyouma was interested in this portion: "If the existing rights to use, divide, sell or posses private real property are reduced by the enactment or applicability of any land use law enacted after the date the property is transferred to the owner and such action reduces the fair market value of the property, the owner is entitled to just compensation."

The Zeyoumas want to remodel their home, which will most likely raise the value of the property.

Since the law essentially blocks them from doing so without connecting to the sewer, she is arguing that the sewer regulations, which were enacted after they bought their home in 1991, decrease the value of their home.

City Attorney Carl Cooper said the laws aren't applicable in this case.

Proposition 207 does not apply because it was enacted in 2006, after the city had already tailored its utilities code to say people must connect if they want to build on their property and they're within 500 feet of an existing line.

The law is not retroactive, Cooper said. Also, building codes and laws that deal with water and wastewater are exempt from the law, he said.

Cooper said the Fair Housing Act doesn't apply in this instance either.

The law says reasonable accommodations must be given in certain circumstances when it comes to protected classes of people, such as disabled, Cooper said.

But reasonable accommodation needed to be defined by the courts so that it didn't get out of control.

The courts have determined that money and cost is not a determining factor when it comes to reasonable accommodation, he said.

Also, there is no grandfather clause within the law.

The Zeyoumas were not impressed.

"I absolutely disagree with where this law is going," Karen Zeyouma said.

"A homeowner should be allowed to do what they want with their own home" if it doesn't create any problems for the city, she said.