Sewer proposal limits commercial growth

Town tries to make newly acquired capacity last 10 years

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

Proposed sewer allocations for the next fiscal year would provide little for new commercial development, despite the expected addition of a large amount of sewer capacity for the town.

Selectboard members will hold a public hearing Monday night on the proposed allocations. The board is expected to decide whether to adopt the allocations after the hearing.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said he expects the proposed allocations, if approved, will result in some competition among developers.

“I imagine there’s going to be a battle for the limited capacity — at least on the commercial side and probably on the residential side, too,” McGuire said.

Williston expects to have 200,000 gallons per day of new capacity available on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year. The capacity will come through an expansion at the Essex Junction wastewater facility.

However, town officials say they plan to parcel out the new capacity slowly because they do not know how soon they will be able to obtain additional capacity. The Selectboard has said it wants the 200,000 new gallons per day to last 10 years.

The proposed allocation for commercial development in the 2005-06 fiscal year is particularly sparse, allowing only 1,144 gallons per day for new development. For the current year, before the arrival of the new capacity, the allocation for new commercial development is 1,500 gallons per day.

McGuire said the commercial allocation was limited in part because 20,000 gallons per day is proposed for existing commercial uses that are using more sewer than they were allocated. Examples include Maple Tree Place, Sports & Fitness Edge and Vermont Technical College. He said the number is expected to be much lower next year.

On the residential side, the proposed capacity includes 7,665 gallons per day for new residential construction and 3,285 gallons per day for affordable housing. There was 3,600 gallons per day allocated for new residential in the current fiscal year and none tagged specifically to affordable housing.

The allocations also include 14,655 gallons per day that have been set aside to specific projects. The total includes 10,500 gallons per day for the Shunpike Road abatement project, which is expected to be completed in the next fiscal year, and 3,555 gallons per day for future school expansion. There are no current plans for a school expansion in Williston. Also, 600 gallons per day were set aside for the public safety facilities expected to be finished in late 2006.

The allocations will only be valid if the new sewer capacity is available by July 1. The sewer treatment plant expansion was expected to be completed in the fall, but the new system failed its operational tests. Modifications were made to the system, and new testing began last month. Town Manager Rick McGuire said the town believes the state will certify the additional treat capacity by July 1.