BERLIN – The public got its first look at the current wastewater capacity management plan, and other development related resolutions this week when the Berlin Mayor and Council released draft copies of the documents at the Tuesday’s meeting.
The council did not discuss the documents, planning to schedule a work session to go through each of the four new policies in detail.
The documents, prepared by town staff, are as new to the council as to the townsfolk.
“I haven’t even been briefed on this,” said interim Mayor Gee Williams.
The four documents are the capacity management plan for allocation of currently available sewer capacity; the allocation policy ordinance; an ordinance requiring developers to provide spray irrigation land for effluent disposal; and a policy requiring new projects to use some low impact development techniques.
Several of these policies have been the subject of casual discussion, but no action, by the Berlin council at various times in recent months.
The sudden release of all four documents in the wake of the prior delays and apparent indecision of the council raised the question of whether the work had been stalled under former Mayor Tom Cardinale, who died unexpectedly May 3.
“We’ve been very busy getting a lot of things out of the way and I can only assume his failing health got in the way,” said Williams.
The capacity management plan does not include another oft-discussed policy, which would limit the number of new EDUs released each year when the expanded plant creates more capacity.
What the capacity management plan for the available capacity does do is lay out how many EDUs are available and what purpose they have been assigned to.
The current plant has a 2,400 EDU-a-day capacity, with 1,836 residential accounts and 200 commercial, already hooked up.
Several hundred other EDUs are reserved for infill lots, 446 in total, leaving an available capacity of 314 EDUs.
Just 31 EDUs of the available capacity has been reserved for residential infill use, with another 70 planned for the historic district area, and town center. Seventy-five EDUs each should go to commercial and industrial use, and to institutional, school and government use.
Twenty percent, or 63 EDUs, of the available capacity would be reserved for inflow and infiltration.
The draft policy details nine residential developments within town limits that have either not been started or are not yet built out, which would use the EDUs planned for infill construction. Some professional spaces are also included in that number.
The improved and expanded sewer plant will take another two and a half years to complete. The draft capacity plan states that the town will limit available sewer to 126 EDUs, half the available capacity, in the first year, and 125 in the second, to preclude overburdening the current plant. Dividing the allocations would also give the town reliable planning information, and prevent large, sudden demands on the wastewater system.
The allocation policy draft sets a new procedure for sewer service allocation, laying out the application procedure in particular.
The draft spray irrigation policy would require developers with projects larger than 25 acres that are annexed into Berlin to provide usable spray irrigation land to the town, at 125 percent of the land needed to handle the project’s wastewater. This ordinance requires the town to sign off on the offered spray land as suitable for spray disposal.
If Berlin already has enough spray land to accommodate the project, the ordinance as written would allow the council to exempt a developer from the requirement. One of the final clauses included in the draft ordinance requires the council to interpret the policy liberally.
The draft of the low-impact development technique ordinance would require builders to use at least two methods to reduce stormwater run-off, including native landscaping, rain gardens, vegetated swales, green space, and permeable pavers.
These documents were released only for discussion.
“This is informational and a place to start,” said Williams.
The interim mayor would like to see a new process for reviewing such policies put into place, incorporating in particular work sessions to allow thorough discussion.
“There hasn’t been a tradition of work sessions such as other towns have had,” said Williams. “You just can’t deal with these things in the amounts of time we have in our regular public sessions…we never have a chance to work on these things together. Town policies cannot be created through magic.”
Plans call for a work session on the four new policies some time in late June or early July.
A public hearing will be held after the council hammers the policies into shape and formally proposes the changes.
“There’s so much to it we just need to begin,” Williams said.