OLD LYME — The sewer project for three chartered beach associations and the town’s Sound View Beach cleared a small hurdle Tuesday when the zoning board of appeals granted a variance, with conditions, for a sewage pump house to be located at 73 Portland Ave., a privately-owned corner lot directly across the street an alternate site at 72 Portland Ave. proposed by the town.
Provided it’s approved by the zoning commission, the variance would give the three beach associations — Miami Beach, Old Colony and Old Lyme Shores — a location for a pump house independent of the town’s progress toward putting in sewers in Sound View. The beach communities began plans for installing sewers in 2012.
Pending voter approval of the August 13 referendum to bond $9.5 million for sewers in Sound View, of which 25 percent will be paid through a Clean Water Funds grant, the town would have two options: join the beach associations’ pump house through a lease agreement or build a town pump house at 72 Portland Ave. and ask the beach associations to join.
Scott and Kathleen Boulanger, owners of 73 Portland Ave., a .12-acre lot that is about 100 feet by 50 feet, requested 25-foot setback variances from both Pond Road and Portland Ave. which are normally 30 feet.
With a 30-foot variance and due to the tiny size of the lot, any building construction would have been limited to eight feet in width, explained James Otis, an engineer from Fuss and O’Neill in Manchester, who pointed to drawings that showed how a 25-foot variance would allow for a 13-foot wide building.
A July 4 letter in support of the project from Richard Prendergast, chair of Old Lyme’s Water Pollution Control Authority, was read into the record.
“As the Old Lyme WPCA chairman, I want to clearly state that my committee is in full support of the effort to establish a sewer pump station in either the town property near Pond Road or the Boulanger property, both of which will serve the needs of at least 1,000 residents that are mandated to install sewers including the Sound View neighborhood,” wrote Prendergast. “I also believe a pump station will benefit all Old Lyme residents by enabling the town to resolve the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s administration order to install sewers and the Department of Health’s issuance of public nuisance orders applied to the town to remedy local brown water findings.”
Prendergast wrote that discussions with Old Lyme’s WPCA’s engineers revealed that locating the pump station in a different area in the town would be very expensive, “but more importantly, less reliable since a gravity feed system would be replaced with a vacuum-type system that is more complex and requires more maintenance, sucks up sand that destroys pumps.” That pump station would likely need the same variances as well.
“The building would be constructed to appear as a small garage and would be flood-proof, odor-controlled and would enhance surrounding neighborhood properties,” he wrote. “In summary the location of the pump station offers a hardship needed for gravity to gain robust operation feasibility. The pump station location benefits a significant number of residents in the sewer project area that needed sewers as well as all residents to resolve pollution findings.”
Speaking in support of the application was Douglas Whalen, chair of the Old Colony Beach Club Association, who said the location offered a number of advantages.
“This is land is perfect location to provide a gravity-fed sewer system to the three beach communities. This location is the most cost-effective way to provide a solution to the identified pollution problem… This sewer pump station is a better location than another proposed pump station as it will have no impact to the town parking lot and will also allow the town to not have any restrictions on town-owned property,” he said.
Joseph Halloran, chair of the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association WPCA, also spoke in favor of the application and said the town would join the three beach associations pump house.
“Old Lyme will join the three beaches in this pump station once the referendum has passed,” he said.
Kathleen Boulanger also spoke in favor, noting that her permit applications to use the property as a parking lot had been repeatedly declined over the years.
In opposition to the project was James Leger of 69 Portland Avenue who raised concerns about potential smell and also noise from the building’s back-up generator.
A letter of opposition had already been submitted by J. Lampos of 1 Portland Ave.
The board unanimously approved the variance on three conditions. First, the applicant must obtain approvals for a special permit and a CT-DEEP-reviewed Municipal Coastal Site Plan Review Application. Secondly, use of the building’s garage and storage areas were limited to the maintenance of the sewage pump station and the building could not be converted to living space or used to support off-site activities or uses. Third, the length of the pump station and storage areas will be designed to the minimum size required to meet functionality needs, special permit requirements and building codes.
The matter will come before the Zoning Commission, which will meet again in September.