Board sticks with sewer plan for Snyder project

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

Plans to connect a new residential development along Spear Street to the town sewer system should continue following extra review prompted by a petition from residents of the Shelburne Heights neighborhood.

The Shelburne Selectboard on Tuesday decided it would take no further action regarding wastewater system designs for the Snyder Homes project planned for a former section of the Kwiniaska Golf Course property along the west side of Spear Street.

More than 70 neighbors in the Shelburne Heights development north of the new project petitioned the board this spring to take a closer look at the sewer connection planned for the new development. They questioned the decision for wastewater from the new homes to go to a town treatment plant using lines that run through Shelburne Heights.

Residents worried that the system might not be able to handle the new users. The town hired Green Mountain Engineering, which was not involved with the development plans, to review the plans that were approved by the Shelburne Development Review Board and are now in state Act 250 review.

Engineer Alan Huizenga attended Tuesday’s meeting to discuss his calculations and answer questions.

In the end, board members said they were satisfied that the plans should proceed without any change.

“My personal sense is that we’ve exhausted ourselves here on the question of the adequacy of the system,” said selectboard chair Jerry Storey.

“I hope everyone who’s involved can see that we took this very seriously,” board member Colleen Parker said. “We tried very hard to listen and get all the facts.” 

Homeowner Bill Supple, who led the petition effort, reiterated his concern that the inquiry revealed unclear records and drawings from the Shelburne Heights sewer system installation which left some questions unanswered about how it might handle adding many more users. 

“The town didn’t keep proper records,” Supple said. “I want to ask the engineer, ‘Is this system going to be a problem? Do we have anything to worry about?’”

His neighbor and former selectboard member Ken Albert echoed that point. 

“Is the system adequate?” he asked.

Huizenga was careful to focus on the question he was asked to review – whether the Shelburne Heights system had capacity to handle the addition of wastewater from 91 more homes. He answered that his calculations showed that it would only be at 60 percent capacity when the new development is fully built.

Shelburne Heights resident and former selectboard member Toni Supple thanked the board for hiring the engineer and listening to neighbors’ concerns.

“It has gone a long way to reassure us,” she said. “We still do have concerns but having the engineer doublecheck everything was a huge help.”

The residents’ petition also asked whether Shelburne Heights homeowners would be entitled to any “restitution” of fees they have been paying for nearly 20 years when their homes were connected to the town system. The board said it would consider that topic in August or September.

Accessory apartments

Another portion of the meeting was devoted to a public hearing regarding a zoning change to address “accessory apartments” added to single-family homes. The board voted to approve the change that will simplify the review process whereby a one-bedroom apartment of up to 1,500 square feet could be added to a single-family home.

The use would be allowed when the owner of the property lives on site and when the apartment is no larger than 30 percent of the size of the original home. Larger apartments are allowed but would need more detailed conditional use review under the proposal, explained Town Planning and Zoning Director Dean Pierce. The change reflects the updated town plan which aims to encourage more affordable housing in Shelburne, said Pam Brangan of the housing subcommittee.

Selectboard members asked if the change will make it easier for homeowners to alter their properties to allow for short-term rentals using services such as Airbnb. Brangan said the intention was for families to make it easier to update their properties to create apartments for family members such as elderly parents or adult children.

Town permitting fees were another topic discussed with regard to a fee recently flagged by The Automaster car dealership on Shelburne Road. The business questioned a potential fee of $9,000 connected with the expansion of a parking lot for vehicle storage as part of a larger project on site.

Planning and zoning staff explained that the fee was based on a calculation required in the review process that categorized parking lots with buildings. The selectboard voted 4-1 to amend the language so that parking areas would be subject to a minimum fee instead. In this case, The Automaster would be charged just $50 for the parking area portion of its project.

Other business

The board also approved the proposed 2019-20 wastewater department budget of $1,978,000 which is an increase of 3.1 percent over last year’s budget. The budget is funded through user fees charged to the 2,247 homes and businesses on the system.

The wastewater rate would increase from $13.15 to $13.29 per 1,000 gallons under the new budget, explained Finance Director Peter Frankenburg. A typical family on the system would likely see an increase of less than $10 in the coming year, he said.

Finally, the board voted to adopt the VtAlert public safety notification system for the community. The state system handles communications regarding a range of situations such as missing persons, storm alerts or changes to traffic due to an emergency.   

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