Members of the Waitsfield Planning Commission asked the Waitsfield Select Board to use some of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for an updated wastewater feasibility analysis.
Commissioners made the request at a September 27 board meeting. Commissioners told the board that it made sense to revisit the concept of a 2007 plan to build a municipal treatment facility on land across from The Valley Professional Center and The Valley Animal Hospital, a parcel of land known as the Munn Field. Commissioners presented a proposal to evaluate centralized and decentralized wastewater capacity and needs.
EXPAND THE SCOPE
During the meeting, Robin Morris who serves on the town’s water commission, suggested that the select board and planning commission expand the scope of the work proposed to include water.
“I’d like to support this proposal. It’s a step in the right direction. I’d like to talk about making it a little more holistic by reviewing wastewater and water and potentially expanding the service area to the north and south of town. We have a water system operating at less than 20% capacity, at 1.5 million gallons per month. We could run 7.5 million gallons a month and could serve north and south of the village and Irasville,” Morris said.
He likened it to action taken in Hinesburg where the town expanded town lines in order to develop affordable housing.
“There are affordable solutions out there. I think we should be thinking about water and wastewater together. It’s important to looking beyond moving well shields and wastewater,” he added.
IMPEDIMENT TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The issue of infrastructure, including water and wastewater, has been identified as an impediment to developing affordable housing in Waitsfield and beyond. If the town were to use ARPA funds to help address the infrastructure issues, it could make affordable housing development more feasible.
During the meeting commissioners noted that there are currently several housing proposals currently in the pipeline, including a proposed nine lots at the south end of town, near the river along with the former (original) Egan’s Restaurant near Bundy Road and a plan to build a bike/trails kiosk behind Localfolk Smokehouse. Those projects will need wastewater, either decentralized or centralized, the board was told.
Members of the select board expressed support for the proposal; in particular, adding water to any proposed request for proposals (RFP) or request for qualifications (RFQ). The board voted to support the planning commission amending the formal request it submitted to include water.
Board members also discussed the fact that the town may be able to access other funds to pay for the analysis, including funding that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has from its own ARPA funds.
Morris pointed out that the 2007 proposed centralized municipal wastewater project had been permitted and noted that although the permits may need to be updated, the fact that a proposed system had been designed and permitted might put Waitsfield ahead of other towns in seeking state funding.
“When we proposed the decentralized systems, after the centralized system vote failed, there was hope that we’d get some housing out of them and 90% went to commercial uses. If we want to be successful as a town, we have to put our finger on the scale for housing,” Morris said.