Neighbors continue with legal strategy in dispute over North Avenue water tanks
WESTPORT — Residents whose homes abut two Aquarion Water Company North Avenue water tanks scheduled for construction this spring have proceeded to fight the tanks through the state’s regulatory authority.
On April 18, lead petitioner Stefanie Lemcke, who lives at 66 North Ave. and a group of her fellow neighbors, filed a motion opposing Aquarion’s motion to dismiss the Petitioners complaint with the proposed water tanks.
The April 18 motion was brought before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), the state agency charged with adjudicating disputes involving public utilities, and follows a months-long period in which Aquarion and the Petitioners agreed to halt resolving the dispute through PURA.
A PURA representative said the case of Aquarion versus the Westport Petitioners does not yet have a timeline for resolution.
During the PURA standstill, representatives from the neighbors, Aquarion, and town officials formed a working group in the hopes they could resolve the dispute without resorting to PURA adjudication.
The two, nearly 40-foot water tanks proposed to replace the one-70-year-old, nearly 30-foot tank, currently on North Avenue will lower the property values of abutting neighbors and cause increased traffic and an industrial eyesore in the middle of the residential neighborhood, the Petitioners say.
More, the neighbors argue Aquarion relied on obsolete data in planning for the size and volume of the water tanks and misled the Planning and Zoning Commission with incorrect assumptions about emergency water storage capacity. “We argue that such fundamentally important questions such as emergency storage capacity cannot be decided by a for-profit, privately run utility company,” the motion reads.
Arguments concluded, the neighbors called for, “a full and fair hearing and for an independent review of the facts, assumptions, and alternatives relative to this project. These water tanks will last 100 years, and will be paid for by the public, and will irrevocably impact the quality of life and public safety.”
Aquarion Public Relations Director Peter Fazekas defended the proposed water tanks saying the tanks size is determined by demands for water requested by the Westport fire marshall and that many of the Petitioners requests, such as a flat as opposed to dome roof on the tanks, are purely cosmetic and would increase costs for all of Aquarion’s ratepayers, in and outside of Westport.
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