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Saturday, April 21 News

Negotiations continue on North Avenue water tanks

WESTPORT — While public debate about the two planned water tanks for North Avenue have quieted, neighbors abutting the proposed tank location across from Staples High School continue to work behind closed doors to negotiate for shorter tanks.

“All sides — the town, Aquarion, and the neighbors, have worked very hard and spent quite a bit of time in meetings over the past three-and-a half months trying to come to a consensual agreement,” Candace Banks, a Tulip Lane resident active in the tank negotiations, said, adding, “The neighbors are still hoping for a height reduction of the two tanks.”

A shorter tank is one of three requests the neighbors have chosen to bring to Aquarion in the negotiation process, Sara Harris, the town’s operations director, who is involved in the negotiations on behalf of the town, said. The other two requests include a flat, as opposed to domed, top on the two proposed water tanks and additional landscaping around the tanks to better disguise them from the surrounding residential homes, Harris said.

The issue of the tanks’ height arose in the fall, when residents with homes near the planned tanks caught word of Aquarion’s plans, approved by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission over the summer, to build two nearly 40-foot water tanks on Aquarion’s North Avenue property, which houses one 70-year-old, nearly 30-foot tank.

Throughout the fall, neighbors argued the tanks’ construction will add increased traffic to the already congested North Avenue; questioned whether two tanks, both set to be larger than the existing one tank, is necessary to meet Westport’s water demands; and called for a third-party review of the tanks’ proposed size.

The review, completed by CDM, said Aquarion’s sizing and volume for the tanks was appropriate and reasonable, said Peter Fazekas, Aquarion’s director of public relations. “We are still discussing as a work group, but at this point nothing has changed with regard to the height and size of the tank,” Fazekas said.

Before the working group formed in December, the neighbors appealed the tanks to the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Agency. The case was put on hold until April 18 while the working group negotiated. After that date, PURA will adjudicate the case and provide a final decision on whether Aquarion’s tanks, which were set for construction this spring, will move forward as previously designed.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1

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