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Acting unanimously, the Board of Selectmen voted against recommending a controversial proposal to provide virtually all Newtown’s remaining surplus sewer access to the Hunters Ridge development.
The applicant for the proposed major mixed-use complex at a 35-acre site straddling the intersection of Walnut Tree Hill and Church Hill Roads — 79 Church Hill Road, LLC — recently drew 150 people, mostly opponents, to a Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) public hearing. And the proposal has generated numerous letters to The Newtown Bee.
Currently, only about ten percent of the 35-acre lot at 79 Church Hill Road, which is nearest to Church Hill Road, is within the central sewer district. The requested approvals would allow the developer to extend sewers to the rear section of the property where the proposed apartment buildings would be constructed.
In view of changes that were made to the town’s sewer regulations in 2015, the local WSA was required to refer to the Board of Selectmen any requests for expanding the sewer district. Thus, the selectmen took up that request and voted against that recommendation to the WSA on the advisability of expanding the sewer district.
Selectman Maureen Crick Owen, in introducing a motion to refuse the recommendation, advised against the town expanding the sewer avoidance district. She also pointed out that such an expansion was not within the WSA’s policy.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said, “In weighing everything, I don’t feel it’s in the public interest to grant [the expansion].”
Selectman Jeff Capeci said such a drastic accommodation could put the community “in a bad position if we need the capacity.”
Attorney Tim Hollister, appearing for 79 Walnut Tree LLC and managing partner Sirjohn Papageorge, said his client had been working with the town for five years on developing the parcel, which was originally proposed as a 400-plus unit complex with its own septic system.
Now scaled back, Atty Hollister said the project’s latest and and final revision calls for 33,000 gallons of capacity per day, which is available without having to seek permission from the state. Town Public Works Director Fred Hurley has reported on numerous occasions that the town’s remaining unallocated sewage treatment capacity is 33,950 gallons per day.
The state of Connecticut legally controls its own capacity for its facilities in Newtown, including the Garner Correctional facility and other installations around Fairfield Hills not owned by the municipality.
He said that scaled back revision would develop 196 apartments and further scale back previously planned mixed commercial and retail space from the planned 55,000 square feet initially proposed to house professional offices, retail businesses, and a 200-seat restaurant.
Atty Hollister said control of the sewer system and allocation of any of its town-owned capacity is within the exclusive purview of the WSA — and by law, can’t be used to control development or density.
He said the selectmen “should not be swayed by neighbors.”
“Sewers are a public utility,” Atty Hollister said, adding that providing sewer access would preserve open space in a way that is not possible with an onsite septic system.
Atty Hollister said Newtown’s sewer avoidance area is an area where sewers should never be installed, and the parcel in question is not in an area that is historically included in the current sewer avoidance area.
The attorney said that the neighboring Walnut Tree Village development received such a change, and the town “saying we have to reserve 100,000 gallons in the event we may need it is an improper statement.”
Of the town’s 332,000-gallon daily limit, 262,000 gallons represents existing metered sewage flow; 26,090 gallons reflects allocated flow that is not yet being used; and 9,960 gallons represents an “environmental buffer” or reserve capacity to be used for unforeseen problems, according to Mr Hurley.
The gallonage statistics are part of a set of proposed modifications to the town’s Water Pollution Control Plan, which is scheduled for a WSA public hearing and action after the print edition of this week’s Newtown Bee goes to press on March 8.
The seven-member WSA may leave the sewage gallonage statistics as listed in the statistics or modify them at that session. Check out post-meeting coverage at newtownbee.com, or in next week’s print edition.