Stephens City and Frederick Water agree to drop lawsuits

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After a multi-year dispute, the town of Stephens City, Va. and Frederick Water have resolved their legal issues.

Tuesday evening, the Stephens City town council voted to approve the term sheet that both Frederick Water and the town drafted during mediation sessions.

The dispute in question stems from a 1992 water rights agreement signed between the two parties. In it, the town allowed Frederick Water to pull water from three town-owned quarries.

But when the agreement expired, the town claimed Frederick Water had to pay for the water, while the sanitation authority disagreed, saying the water was theirs due to a perpetual easement. 

The dispute escalated into a multi-million dollar lawsuit and subsequent counter suit. 

“For the past three years, we’ve had litigation between the town and Frederick Water,” said Frederick Water’s executive director Eric Lawrence. “Litigation is nothing you want to go into […]There’s not a benefit at the end.”

Representatives from both parties sat down for mediation sessions in August and October, and drafted a term sheet of solutions at the latter meeting.

“It resolves an issue over how we operate our treatment plant,” Lawrence said. “And how much water we draw from the quarries.”

According to the term sheet, both sides will drop their lawsuits, Frederick Water will take ownership of the town’s three quarries, and the town will continue to receive discounted rates for water and sewage services.

“Ultimately we’ve come up with a solution that both sides can live with, that both sides benefit from, and will benefit both our citizens and their rate payers going forward,” said Mike Majher, the town manager of Stephens City.

Majher adds that the town and Frederick Water will have a 45 day timeframe in which to finalize a resolution, but he and Lawrence remain optimistic that the issue will be resolved within the next month.

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