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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Board of Selectmen Postpones Decision on Controversial Sewer Plan

In a meeting that ended in the early morning hours today, the Westport Board of Selectmen decided to postpone a decision on rescinding approval of a sewer plan for a controversial housing project on the Westport-Norwalk border.

After first voting 2-1 to turn down a motion by Selectman John Izzo to rescind the approval, First Selectman Diane G. Farrell and Selectman Carl Leaman voted with Izzo to postpone any decision.

They then unanimously approved a “sense of the meeting” resolution calling for a meeting with Norwalk officials to try to resolve the issue. Farrell said she hoped the meeting could be held sometime in October.

The selectmen, acting in their role as the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority, last year had approved the plan allowing extension of a Norwalk sewer line for the 22-unit housing development by ARS Partners in the Partrick Wetlands.

Neighbors in the area, led by the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, said approval of the plan would lead to more dense residential development, sprawl, and a loss of residential character.

The issue came before the board after the state Department of Environmental Protection sent a letter in August saying Westport’s approval of the sewer plan complicated funding of a planned $37.7 million upgrade to the town’s waste water treatment plant.

On Monday, the town received a letter from the DEP saying it was not the department’s intention to hold up state funding of the plant to be considered by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) on Tuesday ֖ but it wanted the issue addressed.

In other action, the Board of Selectmen approved a second “sense of the meeting” resolution saying it favored altering the public/user funding ratio of the sewage plant upgrade to a 25/75 split from the originally approved 50-50 split.

Members passed the resolution instead of altering the ratio on the advice of Town Attorney Ira Bloom who told them that the public notice for the meeting had not included specifics of the proposed alteration in the ratio.

The board will consider the ratio funding at its next meeting.

Both the ARS sewage connection issue and the ratio of public/user funding of the upgrade to the treatment plant were subjects of non-binding “sense of the meeting” resolutions scheduled to be heard by the RTM at its next meeting.

The sponsors of the resolution urging the Board of Selectmen to reverse its approval of the ARS sewer said they would postpone their measure pending board action while the sponsors of the resolution on the funding ratio said they would withdraw theirs which had urged a 25/75 split.

In a third action, the Board of Selectmen approved a $25,000 consulting contract with Blum Shapiro Consulting, LLC to perform a “focused operational review” as recommended by the Board of Finance at its Sept. 1 meeting.

The review was recommended following discovery earlier this year of a backlog of building permits in the assessor’s office that had not been added to the town’s grand list going back to 1998.

Board of Finance Chair Steve Ezzes called the board’s attention to the fact that revised wording of the contract provides for Blum Shapiro to report to the Board of Finance on the matter, not to Finance Director Donald Miklus.

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Posted 09/30/04 at 12:31 PM  Permalink



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