Letter: Pappalardo Weighs in On Sound View Referendum Result

in Beach Communities/Letters

Today’s referendum vote in favor of a $9.5 mil bond for sewers creates a number of questions that must be answered. First and foremost is cost recovery: How the town expects to pay for the bond.

The WPCA and our Board of Selectmen have gone on record stating that the entire bond cost will be paid by the property owners in Sound View and area B. This unprecedented method for a public works project cost recovery should be troublesome to all taxpayers. What’s to prevent other town projects to be paid only by those that are affected? Will Rogers Lake or Halls Road be next?

The question was asked at a WPCA informational meeting, “Should other areas in town need sewers will the same cost recovery method be applied?” The answer? “We’ll look at other projects on a case by case basis”. Are we to infer that should other areas need sewers in the future the cost will be paid as a town project and not only by users? What makes the Sound View area different from the rest of the town? Why are we set apart from the rest of the town?

A second question was also asked: “should other areas of town hook up to the common sewer line (i.e. the pipe to New London) will that portion paid by the Sound View community be reimbursed. The answer was NO. Is this an equitable approach and does it penalize the Sound View community?

While the town has gone on record stating that the beneficiaries of sewers will pay, what they failed to do was clearly say the the State of Connecticut order was to the Town of Old Lyme not Sound View property owners. They further failed to articulate that, as the chair of the WPCA wrote to the zoning commission regarding the pump station portion, “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.”

Placing the burden for the entire cost on a small group of property owners to relieve Old Lyme of a State of Connecticut administrative order is unprecedented, blatantly unfair, and questionable at best.

The benefit that the WPCA has placed on individual property owners is in excess of $15,000 and reaches over $100,000 for some. Added to these “benefit” fees are a $6,000 hook up fee, yearly user fees and the individual costs per property to connect.  How can anyone realistically believe that a property value will be increased by these absurd amounts?

While there may be be some financial benefit to property value it couldn’t possibly be what the WPCA has stated. Whatever the financial benefit actually is, it will further increase the assessed property value and therefore increase the individual property tax. A double whammy!

The user fees are based on some arbitrary number and have no basis on what the actual use may be. Many of the Sound View homes are used 3 months a year yet the user fees will be equally applied to all users regardless of actual use.

Compounding the concerns is that the WPCA has stated that hook up to sewers will be mandatory. Regardless if you have a complaint septic system or not. The Sound View community has recently built homes with septic systems that were constructed to state standards and approved by the town. These systems cost over $30,000 to install. Now the owners will be mandated to abandon their compliant septic systems and hook up to sewers and pay again. One example in the Sound View area is a 9-year-old home with a $30,000 compliant septic system whose owners will now be mandated to hook up to sewers and pay an additional $75,000 for the “benefit” of sewers.

Development of abandoned buildings on Hartford Avenue has been stymied by the years-long discussion regarding sewers. We should do everything possible to encourage development of Hartford Avenue as it will undoubtedly be an improvement to our community and increase our tax base. Whether sewers will invigorate development or not is yet to be seen, however the exorbitant costs and other restrictions on development placed by the WPCA can only have a negative effect.

As evidenced by the phone calls I’ve received it has become clear to me that many in town were given misleading or not given accurate information to make an informed vote. I have also heard from some people that weren’t even aware that Sound View is public and part of the town of Old Lyme, they think we’re a private beach association! Unbelievable!

We’ve work so hard to unify the town and beach community and have made great strides. Now with inaccurate and misleading information we have created a schism: Sound View vs the Town, and set in motion a number of legal challenges.  We have a lot of good and dedicated people in Old Lyme. I’ll offer a quote from Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court: “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas.”

There must be a way to find common ground and make this work for all in Old Lyme.

Frank Pappalardo
Old Lyme, CT