Sound View sewer project could go to referendum in 2019

Old Lyme — While still being planned, a bonding proposal to bring sewers to Sound View and a neighborhood to the north of Route 156 could go to a referendum vote next year.

Water Pollution Control Authority Chairman Richard Prendergast said the date of the referendum is still to be determined, but the best estimate is that the town may hold it in the spring of 2019.

The cost of the project is estimated at $7.443 million, after factoring in a state grant, he said. Under the proposal, the town would bond the project, but residents of the impacted neighborhoods would pay for it through a sewer connection fee.

If approved at referendum, the project design would then be slated for 2019 or potentially 2020, with construction estimated for 2020-2023, he said.

Prendergast updated residents on the status of plans for sewers at Sound View, a project which he said has been coming for a long time, at a public information session last Thursday evening at Town Hall that attracted more than 120 people.

Prendergast said the town, which oversees Sound View and the nearby area north of Route 156, would partner with Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, and Old Colony Beach Club Association — three chartered beach associations that have been planning a sewer project for the past eight years and are further along in the planning process — where it makes sense. The town and the three beach associations are working on a lease for a shared pump station that would provide cost efficiencies. While not yet settled, the current plan would be to locate the pump station at the parking lot at the end of Hartford Avenue in Sound View, he said.

Under the proposal, each equivalent dwelling unit, or a median-sized home, in Sound View and the neighborhood to the north, called Miscellaneous Town Area B, would pay $27,600 to cover the project's capital costs. Homeowners could pay the estimated $27,600 cost, comprised of a betterment fee and a facility connection fee, in a full one-time payment, or they could finance it over 20 years at a 2 percent loan, which equates to two payments of $841 per year.

Annually, homeowners would also pay an estimated $440 operations and maintenance fee.

In addition to the capital cost and the annual maintenance fee, homeowners would also be responsible for the plumbing cost to install the line from the house to the curb, according to the presentation. 

As part of the project, the town is also negotiating with Connecticut Water Company to fund upgrades to water lines, according to the presentation.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection published an Environmental Impact Evaluation of the town's coastal management plan, with the comment period ending earlier this month. The DEEP is expected to issue a Record of Decision around Sept. 14 with answers to the comments. That will likely trigger the state to direct the town to move forward with the recommended option of connecting Sound View and Town Area B to sewers that will send wastewater to New London.

Prendergast said when the WPCA receives that information, it can then work with First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance to schedule a referendum, most likely during the warmer weather months, when more residents of the beach neighborhoods will be in town. He said town officials had hoped to schedule a referendum for this summer, but it ended up not being feasible with the timing of the commenting period. 

Prendergast said that while the Old Lyme WPCA has followed a "sewer avoidance" policy since the 1980s, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has decided that it is no longer effective for some high-density areas along the shoreline. In Sound View and Miscellaneous Town Area B, most lots are too small to support a "fully compliant" septic system, he said.

"Anyone growing up in Sound View or living in Sound View knows the houses are near each other, sometimes a driveway between one house and the next house," he said. "While that makes it great for meeting your neighbors and getting great relationships, it's difficult for a septic system on the property to do its job, and when you have that septic system next to another septic system, next to another septic system, you have overlap [that] makes it even harder."

Douglas Whalen, chairman of Old Colony Beach Club Association, said the three private beach associations want the town to join their project.

"We feel that if all three beaches are cleaning up their beaches, cleaning up the pollution, cleaning up Long Island Sound, we'd love for the town to come in," he said.

The three private beach associations have agreements to connect to East Lyme's sewer system and to treat wastewater in New London. Prendergast said the town hopes to join those agreements later.

Residents at the information session raised questions, such as if they would still need to pay the annual maintenance fee if they are a seasonal and not a year-round resident, and asked about the status of monitoring for the Hawk's Nest neighborhood.

Prendergast said that all homeowners, whether year-round or seasonal residents, will need to pay the annual maintenance fee. He likened it to when people buy equipment at the store, they have to pay the same price whether they use the equipment a lot or a little.

He said that Hawk's Nest is separate from the Sound View sewer project and has monitoring wells and is being studied for multiple years, as Hawk's Nest has both high density and low density sections. The results of that testing will then be evaluated. 


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