Does East Lyme have the sewer capacity to meet the needs of a proposed affordable housing development in Oswegatchie Hills? And, if it does, will that leave enough capacity to serve existing residential areas that are waiting to be connected to the sewer system?
Landmark Development's proposal to build 840 housing units on the Caulkins Road section of the 236 acres it owns on Oswegatchie Hills would require a sewerage capacity of 118,000 gallons per day. To move forward with its application, the developer needs to know if the town has the sewer capacity to accomodate it.
After East Lyme's Water and Sewer Commission took up the issue last night and, though commissioners made no decision, a number of them expressed doubts that the town's current capacity would be up to the task.
Commissioners Weigh In
According to Landmark's calculations, its development would use about 35 percent of the town's remaining sewer capacity. Weston & Sampson, the engineering firm hired to assess the situation for the town, estimates that this one development would require about half of the town's sewer capacity.
"We have an allotment of 1.5 million gallons per day," said Commissioner David Zoller. "[Landmark] is asking for a huge hunk of capacity and by my estimate, we don't have it."
Local residents from the Golden Spur and Saunders Point neighborhoods who are slated to be connected to the town's sewer system testified at the public hearings that they believed their needs should come before those of a proposed development. Many of them are already paying for sewer service, even though they have yet to be hooked up to the system.
"Saunders Point, Gorton Pond, Quarry Dock Road, and Pattangansett Road haven't been sewered. Pattagansett Lake has an algae problem. We need to sewer Pattagansett and the Niantic River is in danger of a serious pollution problem and one of the things that will help correct it will be to sewer Saunders Point," said Commissioner Joseph Mingo. "In my opinion, we need to set aside capacity for those areas."
Commissioner Carol Russell agreed.
"When we're this close to reaching maximum capacity we have to tread very carefully," she said. "If we go forward and approve this, we may be really harming our ability to meet other obligations in addressing pollution issues."
Considering the Past, Present, and Future
Landmark Development has been pushing this project for about 12 years and has taken the town to court to challenge previous decisions three times. It renewed its application, in part, because East Lyme is in the process of connecting to the New London Water Treatment Plant, which should expand the town's sewer capacity.
The commissioners noted, however, that until that project is complete they will be basing their decision on current capacity, not potential future capacity which could be impacted if Old Lyme's beach communities connect to the system, as two of Old Lyme's beach associations have recently elected to do.
East Lyme's Town Attorney Edward O'Connell told commissioners that, after reviewing the four court cases discussed by both Landmark's attorney Tim Hollister and the intervenor, the nonprofit organization Save The River/Save The Hills during the public hearing, the main takeaway is that the commission has "wide discretion" on this issue.