Westport P&Z signals plans to reject Hiawatha Lane sewer extension
WESTPORT — A developer’s plan to bring a 187-unit housing complex to Hiawatha Lane in Westport could soon hit its next roadblock.
On May 28, the Planning and Zoning Commission said they planned to give a thumb’s down on Summit Saugatuck’s application for a sewer extension on Hiawatha Lane, a move other public boards have made since the extension was first proposed in 2003.
“Both (Planning and Zoning Director) Mary Young and (Westport-Weston Health District Director) Mark Cooper did a terrific job of laying out the appropriateness of us issuing a negative report for the sewer extension,” Planning and Zoning Chair Danielle Dobin said.
First Selectman Jim Marpe requested a formal decision from the commission after the application came before the Water Pollution Control Authority. In February, the Norwalk Conservation Commission also denied Summit’s application to widen a gravel route for its housing project.
The Water Pollution Control Authority had denied the sewer line extension proposal in 2003 and again in 2016 because the main pipe, which runs underneath the Saugatuck River, and Pump Station 2 were both in need of repairs at the time.
The sewer lane extension was also 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.
Tim Hollister, attorney for Summit Saugatuck LLC, said the 1,600 foot sewer extension from Davenport Avenue to Hiawatha Lane Extension was sought to allow for proper sewer discharge capacity in his client’s development.
“In October of 2019, the Connecticut Appellate Court, reviewing a 2018 trial court order to the town to approve the sewer extension, specifically suggested we reapplied for the sewer at the local level,” Hollister said, adding there had since been upgrades to the main pipe.
The Connecticut Supreme Court is currently reviewing the Appellate Court’s decision, he said, but if the town had approved the application, the case would have been withdrawn.
Hollister argued the commission should issue a positive report because the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development showed Summit’s property in a sewered area. He added the commission couldn’t issue a negative report just because multi-family housing was being proposed instead of single-family housing.
“The task is not to be based on the type or density of housing that the sewer may serve,” he said. “That is a zoning decision.”
Hollister said 52 of the 70 structures in the Sauagatuck Village area were already connected to the sewer, with 24 of those being a multi-family use. He added the sewer installation was good for water quality.
“Summit and the town will probably continue to have a dispute about the zoning approvals, but at this time, the sewer should no longer be an issue due to the completion of the upgrades,” he said.
But Young said one of many reasons the commission could issue a negative report lies in the 2017 POCD, which discouraged a sewer extension if it encouraged more intense development. She said Cooper also gave comments on the application’s environmental impacts.
“He told us in summary there’s no demonstrated needs based upon the records he has available to him,” she said.
Commissioner Paul Lebowitz echoed the sentiments.
“I think Mr. Cooper summed it up pretty well in terms of what I believe, and that is there’s really no net benefit to the neighborhood and no net benefit to the environment,” he said.
The zoning commission will next meet on June 11.