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Thursday, February 22 News

Hillandale/Hilltop sewer lines OK'd as P&Z reverses earlier denial

The Department of Public Works director last week helped sell the Planning and Zoning Commission on a request for a neighborhood sewer extension it rejected in December.

A positive report on a 8-24 land-use request by the first selectman for a variance to allow construction of sewer lines to properties at 1 Hillandale Lane and 10 Hilltop Trail -- along with 19 other adjacent properties -- was unanimously approved.

The commission, when it voted to deny the report several months ago indicated the application was incomplete, missing relevant information that included a report from the Department of Public Works.

This time, however, an appearance by DPW Director Steve Edwards, and his explanation of the project, proved pivotal in changing the verdict.

Specifically, Edwards provided the P&Z with background about a blue line on a map of Westport that encircles the larger portion of town, excepting a section to the northeast. The area is based on a 2002 plan, which had aimed to install sewer lines in the entire section through 2022.

"We wanted to look at something that would extend over 20 years at a rate of rational growth," he said.

"It is essentially a pass-through by the WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority)," Edwards added. "The WPCA has already given it its approval."

Edwards explained that, based on the idea of increasing the number of sewer users over the subsequent 20 years, the town funded the new sewage treatment plant.

He said various sections within the blue line are divided into low-, medium- and high-priority sections.

"This area that we're looking at right now was established as a high- to a medium-high area ... based primarily on soil types, based on the size of the lots," Edwards said.

"This is a little strange in that it's a full 1,900 linear feet," he said. "In most cases we're looking at much shorter lines."

He noted the advantage that the developer -- Christopher Cocco -- would be paying for the project, "providing a benefit to that neighborhood. Twenty-one homes will be made available to sewer at a developer's expense."

He said the developer will be required to maintain the line for the first year, after which the town takes over ownership.

"For me this whole thing has been about having a complete package when you come to the commission," P&Z Commissioner Catherine Walsh told a land-use consultant involved with the project. "We can't fly by the seat of our pants."

"The previous submission was grossly mishandled," P&Z Chairman Chip Stephens told Edwards. "We didn't see a statement from you."

He said, however, that though these requests have routinely get approved by the WPCA, it still is worthwhile for the commission to look at each application individually.

Edwards explained that because of maintenance work on sewer lines to repair leaks, the capacity of the sewage treatment plant has improved over the last two years. He said while it operates at a capacity of 1.8 or 1.9 million gallons currently, it is rated to go to up to 3.4 million gallons.

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"Right now we've got 2,000 homes paying for that plant and I've got capacity for 3,000 homes," he said, explaining that the property owners with sewers are for bonds taken out in 2002.

"We're trying to get those people in there to help pay off the plant," he said of new hookups.

In issuing its positive report, Commissioner Alan Hodge noted that the P&Z should make it clear this was not a sanction for further development.