Falmouth council likely to exempt development from sewer connection fees

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FALMOUTH — Town councilors on Monday indicated they will exempt Ridgewood Estates from a $150,000 sewer connection fee, but will wait until their next meeting for a clean copy of the contract before voting on the proposal.

The agreement would exempt the 75-unit development off Falmouth Road from a $2,000-per-unit connection fee for the private extension, as requested by the development’s new owner, Mike Payson. The town would retain the right to review the design if the homeowners association later seeks to join the public sewer system.

Although councilors appeared ready to make a decision to approve the contract Monday, they decided to delay the vote until attorneys for the town and for Payson cement the contract language.

Councilors seemed to base their decision on the assumption the town has exempted private sewer extensions built under a 1985 ordinance governing those that were designed to be public on completion. According to Town Manager Nathan Poore, the ordinance contains language that would exempt a public system, but not a private system, from connection fees.

But in an April 17 memo to Poore, Robert Clark Jr., the town’s waste-water treatment facilities superintendent, said the only sewer systems for which connection fees were waived were intended to be public on completion, which requires a higher standard of design than a system initially intended to be private.

And in a July 30 memo to Poore, Clark said other than the Woodlands Villas, “all other developments afforded the exemption from connection charges was built to town standards and conveyed to the town on completion. Staff is not aware of any other sewer extensions that were not built to town standards having been afforded the exemption from connection charges or having been accepted by the Town Council.”

In that same memo, he recommended the council require Payson to “conduct an analysis” that would show any improvements that would need to be made to upgrade the system to requirements for public acceptance and that would reflect projected operating, maintenance and capital replacement costs associated with the present design as compared to the improved design.

“This analysis should be completed and submitted for staff and Town Council review prior to any decision to afford an exemption from sewer connection charges or modify the ordinance,” Clark said in the memo.

On Wednesday morning, Clark said he now feels comfortable with the proposed decision to exempt Ridgewood Estates from the fees and hopes the council will look at amending the ordinance language to make decisions like this more clear in the future.

“It is clear in the record now there are certain things the staff is going to look for,” he said.

Though the council may consider requiring all new sewer extensions to be public, Clark said, “there is a place for private sewer where there’s a well-established maintenance entity that can maintain it.”

In other council business:

• Councilors agreed to write a letter of intent for the Center for African Heritage to include in a grant application it is submitting for $2 million in funding to continue and expand its organic farming program at River Point. If successful, $200,000 of the grant would go toward repairing an access bridge near River Point. If funds are secured, the center hopes to continue to offer its program for two more years.

• Councilors moved the date of their next meeting from Monday, Sept. 28, to Wednesday, Sept. 30, because of Yom Kippur.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.