Protect the Partrick Wetlands
Late last month the Town of Westport clarified its position on sewer coverage going forth through the next two decades. Prompted by questions surrounding Saugatuck Shores and whether Norwalk or Westport would take its sewerage, the Planning and Zoning Commission met with Selectwoman Diane Farrell and Public Works Director Steve Edwards to sort it out.
The meeting was a watershed moment and a stride towards Smart Growth. As reported in this paper (The Hour), Westport will bring their Saugatuck Shores neighborhood into their own system instead of using Norwalk's. More importantly, the Town of Westport clearly stated that the Northwestern section of Westport, abutting the Norwalk Cranbury neighborhood, could and should remain sewer free.
As Westport worked to increase its Water Treatment capacity, a 2002 study was prepared by the consulting firm of Stearns and Wheeler to look at sewerage needs through 2025 and design a plant and coverage area. With the input of the Conservation, Health, Public Works and the Planning and Zoning departments a map was drawn up determining where sewers should go. Northwestern Westport was specifically left sewer free to protect the character of this area and because the larger lots in those zones could support on-site septic or community based systems and did not need sewers. It was not a capacity issue, it was a planning decision.
Westport's well defined position on sewers is important because the Newtown Avenue sewer extension, proposed by developers to cross into Westport and thus allow them to over-develop the Partrick Wetlands, is in this no sewer needed area.
When Diane Farrell brought up this fact and that Norwalk had set up a Task Force to review this sewer extension and could turn it down, those in attendance spoke up.
As reported in the Hour, "Mike Stashower, Planning and Zoning Commission member said the property is not within the town's sewer shed area, so if Norwalk does not allow the connection, ARS Partners will have to seek another avenue such as a system contained on its site."
"[Mr.] Edwards said with both plans (ARS and the possibility of a new YMCA in the area) he would recommend against sewers..." He had said earlier that "new technology in on-site systems decreases the need for sewers."
Ms. Farrell asked Chairwoman Ellie Lowenstein if it was mandatory for ARS to have a sewer serve their property. She said, "no, the regulations say sewer or community based system." in other words on-site is a legal alternative.
Ms. Farrell, who is also a Congressional candidate, said when discussing overall sewer alternatives "a proper functioning septic system should be encouraged." She also cautioned the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission to be aware of the adverse development affects new sewer lines can bring even in Saugatuck Shores which is almost entirely built up.
What is clear is that alternatives to sewers exist. Extended sewer lines are not planned for this area because of capacity issues, sewers are not planned because it was deemed they were not needed or wanted. ARS, in turning to Norwalk for a sewer line, is circumventing the desires of Westport and its residents.
The above clarified position from Westport can be coupled with the recent "Hour" editorial against Norwalk taking Westport sewerage and comments made by Norwalk officials Doug Hempstead and especially Common Council President Bruce Kimmel. In an "Hour" column, Mr. Kimmel requested Norwalk "rescind approval of the sewer extension."
These are strong indications that the issues are understood and the time is right to protect the Partrick Wetlands, the White Barn Theatre Property and the greater community of Westport and Norwalk from the sprawl that the Newtown sewer extension would bring.
We urge the Cranbury Task Force and the Norwalk WPCA to make a prudent and informed decision to not allow this sewer extension. More information about this issue, sewers ills and their alternatives, can be found at www.savewestport.com/sewer-info.html