Residents still wary of new sewer plan

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

Residents from the Shelburne Heights neighborhood along Spear Street returned to the selectboard Tuesday, continuing to push back against a development plan to connect to their neighborhood’s sewer lines.

More than a dozen residents turned out for the discussion of additional analysis of the design for the Snyder Homes 90-plus unit residential development to connect to municipal wastewater system.

After residents raised concerns a few weeks ago, the town hired Green Mountain Engineering of Williston to review the plans that have been approved by the town Development Review Board. A June 20 letter from engineer Alan Huizenga elaborated on his initial assessment dated June 6.

“I think it’s a fair assessment of our findings that this system is reliable,” said Selectboard Chair Jerry Storey.

The residents disagreed. They instead interpreted the new information as flagging concerns about how their sewer system was designed and constructed 15 to 20 years ago when some standards were different than current ones.

“Our intent here is to avoid a public health crisis,” Shelburne Heights resident Bill Supple told the board. “We appreciate your due diligence.”

Supple, who has led the neighborhood’s objections, said he questions whether the Shelburne Heights system was designed to be “a link in a chain” with other development connecting to it.

“The further I get into this thing, I’m convinced this is going to be a disaster,” he said.

Residents have petitioned the selectboard to step in to alter the planned connection and instead have the Snyder development connect using wastewater lines along Webster Road.

Water Quality Superintendent Chris Robinson explained that the Webster Road route would be more complicated and costly using pump stations and possibly requiring upgrades to add the Snyder project.

Supple and others said they worry that increasing the flow through their neighborhood will cause the system to fail.

“Is that savings worth killing this neighborhood?” he asked.

Toward the end of the discussion, Storey addressed Supple’s “generous” criticisms of the board, which that night consisted of Storey and member Mary Kehoe. Board member Mike Ashooh, who lives in Shelburne Heights, recused himself from the discussion. Vice Chair Jaime Heins and member Dr. Colleen Parker were absent.

“We’re your neighbors,” Storey said. “We’re making a concerted effort to solve a problem. I can appreciate your emotion and your partisanship … but I don’t think we should accept the fact that there’s some characterization of us as shoving anything down a fellow citizen’s throat.”

Storey offered to have town officials contact the consulting engineer to see if he could attend an upcoming meeting in order to settle the matter.

It is unclear what, if any, action the selectboard might take. The Snyder project has town permits and currently is in state Act 250 development review.

First step for fire station

Although the bulk of Tuesday’s meeting time revolved around the sewer issue, the board heard and acted on several other topics.

Ashooh reported that the site plans for the development along Shelburne Road at Longmeadow Drive for a future Healthy Living market and new Shelburne and rescue station have cleared their first hurdle with the Development Review Board.

The board reviewed sketch plans that outline the subdivision plan for the nearly 5-acre site, creating the building lots for each of the proposed structures.

Ashooh is the selectboard member acting as a liaison with the committee working on the fire station project. Voters in March approved $25,000 to be matched by money in an ambulance fund to pursue the unique arrangement to simultaneously design a grocery store beside a new fire and rescue station.

Steps through this year aim to secure initial approvals and begin state permitting. Voters would need to approve spending to actually build the new public safety facility.

Ravi Venkataraman, coordinator for the Development Review Board, said site plan review is next. That will delve further into the details for both projects.

The newest member of the board having been elected in March, Ashooh also asked fellow selectboard members about his role as liaison – whether he spoke for the board or himself or whether his role was to simply keep the selectboard informed.

Board member Mary Kehoe, a lawyer, ribbed Ashooh a bit and touched off some laughter in the room with a quip: “This is what happens when you elect philosopher to the selectboard.” Ashooh teaches philosophy and medical ethics at the University of Vermont.

In another development-related item, the board approved a request for wastewater allocation for a proposed residential development on the site of the former Yankee Doodle Motel on Shelburne Road.

Developer David Shenk is proposing to build 63 units in three two-story buildings on the 3.3-acre site and has begun the local permitting process. The project needs an additional 7,050 gallons per day of sewer capacity from its previous use as a 14-room motel.

Dog park suggestion

During the public comment period, resident John Saar brought up the Shelburne Dog Park situation. The park is being “undeveloped” to comply with state wetlands regulations in order for the park to remain at its site along Harbor Road. Amenities added to the park such as gravel paths, a water spigot, benches and a storage shed, violate state rules given the wetlands location and are being removed.

“C’mon, this is Shelburne. We can do better than this,” Saar said, suggesting relocating the park to town land near the post office on Falls Road. “You could enclose a couple of acres there and everyone would be happy.”

Storey thanked Saar for the input.

“We’ll take that suggestion into consideration.”

Remembering Sallie Soule

Tuesday’s meeting began with a short tribute to Sallie Soule, a longtime Shelburne resident who recently died in Florida. Soule was a former Democratic state representative and senator from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s when she then went on to serve in Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s cabinet. She died June 11 at age 91 at her home in Fort Myers, Fla.

Her daughter, Shelburne resident Sarah Soule, attended Tuesday’s meeting. Joan Lenes, a successor to Sallie Soule in the legislature representing Shelburne, also attended and spoke of the elder Soule as a role model.

“She was a leader to me on a lot of levels – as a community member, as a woman,” Lenes said. “As a politician she brought honor to that name and I tried to carry that forward in my work.”

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