Founding Partner and Real Property Lawyer John Wyatt has been providing legal counsel to Renewable Water Resources, more commonly known as ReWa, and its predecessor for over 40 years. Most recently the company began expanding the sewer system in Greenville that will accommodate Greenville’s future sewer needs with a $46-million gravity sewer, which will stretch one mile under downtown Greenville.
The sewer tunnel is the first of its kind in Greenville and ReWa’s biggest project to date. Out of all the design options, this one offers the lowest life cycle cost and the least public impact. The “Big Dig” is part of the $400 million infrastructure improvement ReWa plans to make over the next 10 years. Currently, ReWa serves more than 400,000 industrial, commercial and residential customers in the Upstate.
Essentially, the “Big Dig” is not a dig at all; it is a drill to establish a tunnel for a sewer system that will be 80 feet beneath the surface. Greenville is a city built upon a large granite rock that can be drilled through with minimal surface disruption.
Throughout his years in commercial real estate law, Mr. Wyatt has represented public bodies and private entities dealing with public bodies. Understanding the wants and needs on both sides of the equation has been helpful with legal issues like those involved in the “Big Dig”. Due to the nature of this project, Mr. Wyatt finds himself in the unique position of being able to draft the necessary legal documents for the first tunnel under Greenville. For him though, it all comes back to helping someone, whether it be an individual land owner or Greenville as a whole.
Greenville’s city and county executives and ReWa’s leadership had the foresight to put in a major sewer system that has led to the city’s much-admired growth and urban development. For the past 50 years, ReWa has run sewer lines under Greenville, and as a result, buildings have popped up like mushrooms above those lines. As a part of the city’s infrastructure, the sewer system will continue to have significant impact on Greenville’s future growth. Furthermore, ReWa’s sewer system is growing to support all of the trunk lines that collect waste water from Greenville, Anderson, Laurens, Pickens and Spartanburg Counties.
ReWa has collaborated with other major cities in South Carolina, including Charleston, on how to approach building sewer lines under already-developed property. Since Charleston is built on flat, soft, coastal ground and Greenville is built on hilly granite, the city had to connect with larger cities outside of the Palmetto State. ReWa researched larger cities, such as Atlanta, that have managed constructing tunnels well below the surface.
It is a sensitive balancing act of protecting the individual land owners while also keeping in mind the needs of the Greenville community as a whole.
If ReWa must go through established property to drill for the sewer, it is pertinent that both the city’s and the property owner’s rights are protected. It is important to establish clear lines of communication to make sure everyone fully understands the situation and, in the case of eminent domain, that the land is procured at a fair price.
If the sewer has to run under established property, ReWa has held public meetings to notify and discuss the project with landowners. Whatever is on top of the soil cannot interfere with the land under it. ReWa has agents that connect with the property owners regarding the property value. Mr. Wyatt researches the title to determine who owns what, what both parties’ rights are and then works to negotiate a price. If a price cannot be agreed upon, the value of the property is determined in court proceedings.
The legal component of the “Big Dig” focuses on ensuring ReWa has the facilities it needs to continue to flourish while simultaneously taking care of land owners’ needs.
If ReWa had not invested the resources for an expanding sewer system, Greenville could not have experienced the impressive growth over the past decade. The individuals working on this project truly care about the community and have a vision for where the town needs to head. While the “Big Dig” may appear to be about a sewer system, Mr. Wyatt’s role is about helping the community and its members on both the commercial and personal levels.
A founding partner of Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, John F. Wyatt has practiced law at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey since its inception. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1970 and the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit in 1974. Mr. Wyatt has received a listing in Best Lawyers in America for 15+ years (1999-present). He has been listed in “Super Lawyers” since 2010 and he was also listed in Best Lawyers in America, Property/Real Estate in 2004.
Mr. Wyatt specializes in Real Property Law. His practices include matters involving Commercial and Residential Real Estate, Real Estate Foreclosure, Real Property Acquisitions and Eminent Domain.