Westport Board of Selectmen reject Hiawatha Lane sewer extension

Rendering from Summit Development of amoderate-income housing proposal for Hiawatha Lane in Westport, Conn.

Rendering from Summit Development of amoderate-income housing proposal for Hiawatha Lane in Westport, Conn.

Contributed Photo / Contributed Photo

WESTPORT — The Board of Selectmen acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority unanimously rejected a sewer extension request to increase housing density on Hiawatha Lane.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said he supported a denial of the 1,600-foot sewer extension proposed by Summit Saugatuck LLC because it was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Both the statute and our own WPAC policies would not allow us to approve it,” Marpe said.

The denial is the latest in Summit’s highly contested plan to bring a 187-unit housing complex to Hiawatha Lane.

The Water Pollution Control Authority denied the sewer line extension proposal in 2003 and again in 2016 because the main pipe underneath the Saugatuck River and Pump Station 2 needed repairs.

A similar proposal was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2017, with a court appeal by Summit sustained in 2018, before eventually being reversed by the Appellate Court. That case is now pending review by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Tim Hollister, Summit’s attorney, said the repairs to the main pipe and Pump Station 2 have since been made.

“This re-application has been made at the direction of the Connecticut appellate court with a reference in the court’s opinion to the expectation that the extension will be approved, or at least that the issues of denial will be resolved upon re-application,” Hollister said.

When an agency issues denials, it is obligated to state all of its reasons, he said.

“It can’t issue one reason in year one, and then if that reason is later invalidated at some point in the process, reintroduce new or different reasons that could have been raised previously in the initial application,” he said.

Hollister said the Planning and Zoning Commission ignored administrative law by creating new reasons for denial not stated in the first denial.

“If this board chooses to deny this application based only on the 8-24 negative report....we will take that issue back to the court system,” Hollister said.

Peter Gelderman, the town’s attorney, said a similar issue has come up in prior litigation with the trial court not supporting the town’s position, but the appellate court stating it’s complex.

“We feel strongly that our interpretation of 8-24 is correct,” he said. “In fact, I don’t personally see another way to read it.”

Gelderman said he believed the town would prevail in court if that was the next step.