Town hopes to benefit from free pond construction

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

The town of Williston and a South Burlington developer are trying to hash out a deal where a stormwater treatment pond would be built – a pond that Williston’s new fire station would need – at no cost to the town.

Chatham Woods LLC needs the pond for a condominium project off north Williston Road, and they want to construct it on town land in order to meet state environmental requirements. A civil engineering firm hired by Chatham Woods is trying to tweak the plans to accommodate residents near the proposed pond, but the Williston Selectboard wants things to move along more quickly.

The development; the town’s new fire station on U.S. Route 2; and a small piece of town-owned land off Country Lane are tied together by a massive area known as the Allen Brook sediment-impaired watershed.

A large part of the Allen Brook is considered by the state to be “impaired” by built-up sediment from stormwater runoff, so the state requires extra measures to filter out the sediment. The term “watershed” refers to an area within which all water drains into a certain body of water, in this case the Allen Brook.

The site for the fire station and the condo development lies within this impaired watershed area, and both will have primary stormwater treatment systems. But, according to the state, stormwater treatment systems can only filter out 80 percent of the sediment from the runoff. So in order to get a stormwater permit in an impaired watershed area, the other 20 percent must be compensated for, or offset, from somewhere else within the same watershed.

Chatham Woods has proposed building a pond on town land to filter out enough sediment to cover both the fire station’s and the company’s 46-unit development’s requirements. The fire station needs to offset about 220 pounds of sediment per year; and the condo development, about 800.

Chatham Woods hired O’Leary-Burke Civil Associates to design and oversee the project. At last week’s Selectboard meeting, O’Leary-Burke co-owner Paul O’Leary presented his plan for the pond to the town.

“We went in front of the Selectboard to make sure the town was going to go along with it,” O’Leary said.

Selectboard Chairwoman Ginny Lyons said the plan looked good, but the board wanted the project to get moving.

“We do generally approve of the project, but we need to see it moving along,” Lyons said. “Our build out of the fire house is dependent on having that stormwater offset.”

Under the deal with Chatham Woods, the pond would be built on town-owned land at the end of Country Lane, and would be paid for entirely by Chatham Woods, but after one year the town would take over maintenance of the pond.

The town’s land, in the Meadow Brook area, currently has a rudimentary stormwater collection system, but it does not meet state standards, because it was constructed in the 1960s, well before the state actually had standards. But it is precisely this fact that makes the site desirable to the developers.

O’Leary explained that in order to comply with standards within the impaired watershed area, new developments must construct stormwater offset projects in stormwater collection areas that do not have permits, such as the town’s land off Country Lane.

“There’s lots of places within Allen Brook that you can do improvements,” O’Leary said. “But you’re not allowed to use it as an offset if the place has a permit.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation expects to come up with long term plans to clean up all impaired watersheds in the state. After that is accomplished, stormwater collection and treatment sites would require new permits.

The town, by accepting Chatham Woods’ deal, would be saving a significant amount of money, and would be bringing one of its older stormwater collection sites up to higher environmental standards.

“That’s why it seemed like a win-win situation,” said Town Manager Rick McGuire. “The project helped the developer, it helped the town, and it fixed an environmental problem.”

O’Leary said he is trying to accommodate the concerns of the residents who live near the proposed pond site before bringing the plan before the Williston Development Review Board.

One resident, Norman Rapoport, said he has lived in the neighborhood near the site for 32 years.

“If it didn’t have to happen at all that would be better,” said Rapoport, 58. “I know it’s going to have to be done eventually, so I guess I might as well accept it to be done now.”

Rapoport said he supports the town and the new fire station, but that he and others had concerns about the pond being a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and also about the landscaping of the pond. But he said he felt his concerns were being addressed by the civil engineers.

“So far I have been reasonably satisfied with the way it’s being handled,” Rapoport said. “I just want to make sure that continues.”

O’Leary said he would like to meet with residents once more, and bring his plans before the DRB in the next month.