Residents question sewer connection plan

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

About two dozen residents of a Spear Street neighborhood converged on the Shelburne Selectboard Tuesday evening to question imminent plans to connect a new larger development onto the town sewer system.

Residents of Shelburne Heights, situated on the west side of Spear Street north of Kwiniaska Golf Club, presented town officials with a petition signed by 74 people from the neighborhood’s roughly 80 homes. The homeowners take issue with a revised plan for the 91-unit Snyder development planned for construction south of their neighborhood. Snyder’s plans call for using the municipal wastewater system with a connection on Collamer Circle in the Shelburne Heights neighborhood.

The petition asks for reassurances before construction begins. It asks the town to have an independent engineer review the plan for connecting the new development. It also asks the town to assume liability for backup or odor issues that may happen after the connection.

“What we’re trying to avoid is a potential environmental disaster and an ensuing public health crisis,” said Bill Supple, who helped organize the petition.

Shelburne Heights originally had individual septic systems that began failing about 20 years ago. After town votes and negotiations, the neighborhood connected in 2003 to the town sewer system with homeowners still paying the bill through 2022.

The Snyder development is nearing the end of a multi-year local and state permitting process. In its local review, the original plan was for the development to connect with municipal wastewater by tying into lines that lead to the town’s southern plant on Turtle Lane, said Town Planning Director Dean Pierce at Tuesday’s meeting.

Chris Robinson, town water quality supervisor, further elaborated that during the local review, town officials and Snyder project engineers reconsidered an alternate, less costly route to the town’s other treatment plant on Bay Road. The original plan relied on multiple pump stations, but the new idea could rely on gravity, Robinson said.

Connecting through Shelburne Heights, Robinson said, was projected to create a combined wastewater flow that would be a fraction of the design flow that Shelburne Heights lines could handle.

“There was still quite a bit of capacity left,” he said.

Residents of Shelburne Heights referenced promises they said were made to them when they switched over to the municipal system.

“We were told this would not be used as a link to future development,” said Toni Supple, a former selectboard member and resident of Shelburne Heights.

The Shelburne Development Review Board signed off on the connection change, which is now part of the project plan under state Act 250 review.

The neighborhood petition also questions the financial impacts to the payment schedule for Shelburne Heights sewer customers and it asks that residents be informed on any action in the matter.

Selectboard chair Jerry Storey said he “learned a great deal” from the discussion and that the board would consider addressing the issue again at an upcoming meeting.

Bigger wastewater decisions ahead

The board briefly discussed next steps in planning for future wastewater treatment for the community. Town officials need to decide how to address the town’s two aging treatment plants and are considering whether to partner with South Burlington in the future to handle wastewater.

Town Manager Lee Krohn and Robinson met with South Burlington officials this week and were told the city would include that scenario in an engineering study that is beginning soon to look at future upgrades for the South Burlington system. Krohn said there would be no financial obligation or contractual commitment for Shelburne to take that step during the study phase.

South Burlington already handles wastewater from the town of Colchester at a cost to customers that is about half of Shelburne’s current costs, town officials said.

Selectboard members said they would like to authorize a letter to South Burlington at their next meeting in June.

Other business

• “There is a family of beavers building a dam on Webster Road,” Sharon MacNair told the board during public comment. MacNair is president of Green Mountain Animal Defenders.

She, along with several others, described beaver activity in a low-lying area near a culvert along Webster Road. They suggested the town consider deterring the animals with barriers called “beaver baffles” rather than trapping or killing them which likely wouldn’t eliminate the problem.

MacNair said her organization could help provide a consultation with a beaver expert to look into a “non-lethal solution.” This was a new topic for the board. Storey said town officials would look into it.

• The board re-appointed Bob Lake as town health officer for three more years.

• The board approved additional wastewater allocation of 4,253 gallons for Fiddlehead Brewery’s expansion. The company already has an allocation of 3,500 gallons per day.

• The board announced that Krohn’s six-month probation period as town manager has ended. Krohn took the position in November after serving as interim manager since May 2018.

• Tuesday’s meeting began with a moment of silence to acknowledge the death last week of 37-year-old Thomas Bayer Chauncey Little, the son of Tom and Susan Little. Services are today and Friday.

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