BERLIN – With wastewater capacity available for new projects for the first time in several years, Berlin is exploring a new process to distribute the previously scarce commodity equally between commercial and residential interests.
The capacity management plan discussed Monday night at the Berlin Mayor and Council meeting assigns equal numbers of EDUs, in this case 91, to each of the five categories, residential, commercial, industrial zoning, the historic district and residential infill, and 94 to reserves.
“This is a starting place and a management tool,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
The town has no history to fall back on, or any way to predict future development demands, he said. This approach will let the town see how things develop and make changes as needed.
Available EDUs have also increased to 367, in part because of improvements to sewer lines, which reduced the amount of groundwater seeping into the wastewater system. Rainfall and other variables can change that number.
“It is a moving target,” Williams said.
Once the wastewater plant building permit is issued, the town can offer substantially more EDUs by releasing capacity assigned to unbuilt infill lots, Water and Wastewater Director Jane Kreiter said. That could more than double the number of allocatable EDUs.
The town must file the number of available EDUs with the state by the end of March, town administrator Tony Carson said.
“We have to do this every year, even if it doesn’t change,” said Kreiter.
Now that the plant, at least on paper, has reached 80 percent capacity, MDE wants yearly numbers.
Jen Smith, a stormwater engineer and an alternate member of the Berlin Utility Commission (BUC), asked if the town could use the new comprehensive plan, once completed, to distribute the wastewater capacity among the types and amount of growth the town would support under the plan.
If Berlin wanted to base allocations on the comprehensive plan, the new policy would have to wait another six months, Williams said. The new plan draft is not slated to be complete before the spring and might not be approved until October, when under state law it must be passed.
Smith is probably thinking about the more detailed master plan approach, Williams added. The town is not pursuing a master plan at this point.
The capacity management policy is meant to keep too much development from progressing too quickly.
The numbers are not set in stone.
“This is a tool that is able to be adapted and changed over time in changing circumstances,” Williams said.
Sandy Coyman, a professional planner who is also director of comprehensive planning for Worcester County, questioned the absence of a limit on number of EDUs allocated at one time, or to a project overall, during a public hearing on a related regulation Monday night.
The town council has the final say on assigning wastewater capacity, and no single project or person would be allocated all the remaining EDUs in a category, Williams said.
“They would be denied,” Williams said. “Nobody’s going to be able to come in here and ask for 458 EDUs. That would put everything into one project, one place, one purpose … we want to make sure the EDUs are available for different uses and locations within town.”
“That appears to be a good policy,” Coyman said.