Wednesday, July 27, 2016
By James Lomuscio
Acting in its capacity as the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), the Board of Selectmen today voted 2 to 1 denying an application to build a controversial 1,500-foot sewer extension in Saugatuck.
The extension was the needed first step in developer Felix Charney’s plan to construct 155 rental housing units on Hiawatha Lane Extension. The vote came after last week’s often contentious three-hour hearing on the issue. (See WestportNow July 21, 2016)
First Selectman Jim Marpe and Selectwoman Helen Garten voted to deny the request, and Second Selectman Avi Kaner was the dissenter.
The reasons for the denial, spelled out and suggested by Town Attorney Ira Bloom, was the status of the area’s sewage pump station.
Public Works Director Stephen Edwards had stated on several occasions that it cannot handle the flow. Even more critical, Bloom said, is the failing sewage forced main line that runs under the Saugatuck River.
“There is a significant risk of fracture,” Bloom said about the proposed increased capacity, adding that such a break would cause “serious health risks.”
He also said that Charney’s planned project, which had been denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) twice, first in December 2014 and again July 7 despite a reworked proposal, was premature since the installation of a new pipe under the river could take two to four years.
Bloom also said a conditional approval, as the applicant’s attorney Tim Hoillister had suggested at last week’s WPCA public hearing meeting, would go against state statute 8-24.
According to Bloom, 8-24 stipulates that the WPCA cannot supercede a P&Z denial, which only a two-thirds majority of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) can overturn.
“It’s inadviseable, unprecedented and simply bad policy,” said Bloom, adding that the applicant should wait until the risks are eliminated and to reapply.
When it came time for a vote, Kaner voted against the resolution to deny.
“Tthe pipe will be replaced, and once that pipe is replaced, the developer can come ...and build something bigger than what’s being proposed now,” he said.
Kaner also said he liked the idea that Charney’s plan included affordbale housing. Charney, who heads Summit Saugatuck LLC, had teamed up with the Westport Housing Authority (WHA), proposing 70 affordable WHA units and 85 market rate ones.
Garten stressed that the role of the WPCA “is a very narrow one ....sewer capacity.”
“This is not a comment on the proposal,” he said. “The proposal is very attractive.”
Posted 07/27/16 at 10:10 AM Permalink