Letter: Appraisal Estimates Don’t Add Up for Residential Owners in Sound View

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At the conclusion of the December WPCA meeting, Chairman Prendergast made the following statements recorded in WPCA minutes and CT Examiner:  His White Sands property and those of his neighbors had gone up 20 – 30% in the latest appraisal.  “Beach property values generally go up when the rest of the town goes down. When people install sewers, generally the property is worth more” he said.   

I have had discussions with the town assessor and with other assessors in neighboring towns.  The professional consensus is that location, condition, and amenities drive price, and that buyers place no additional value to a property that has a working septic vs sewer – not one penny.  Increasing a home’s tax liability 100-fold via a ‘betterment’ fee however will drive marketability down. Ask any professional in any branch of the housing business and they will certainly confirm that.

Appraisal information is rather clear, particularly in regard to Sound View. Collectively the value of commercial properties has gone up 10.64%.  But the values of single-family homes have gone down – some by as much as 24%.  (Portland Ave- -down 9.67%; Swan Ave – down 6.63%; Hartford Ave – down 2.64% offset by new condo developments.) In fact, one property on Hartford Ave that was purchased for 400K in 2007, now has an appraised value of $154,300 – a loss of 61%. These are the properties the WPCA is targeting for a substantial tax increase in the form of a ‘betterment’ fee.  

Is there an alternative?  At the December 2019 WPCA meeting, Chairman Prendergast said that Geomatrix (Old Saybrook) was not an affordable solution since their solutions run $70K and the average sewer cost is approximately $34K (plus piping and removal of tanks plus a never ending undetermined annual usage charge).

The WPCA’s latest but not final calculation for sewering my 3-bedroom property was about $43K plus plus plus. (I currently have a compliant system on a compliant lot.) Geomatrix’s written quote to completely install a state-of-the-art DEP-accepted septic on my property – $15 to $25K.  Geomatrix solutions do not require digging up and repaving roads, building a pump house, negotiating and sharing resources with private beach communities, signing contracts with other towns, no additional town administration staff required.  It’s simple, clean, quiet, and preserves precious ground water.   

Virginia Lee, Charlestown’s Town Council President with a master’s degree in Oceanology, recently interviewed by CT Examiner, recommends preserving ground water by not sewering and by controlling growth.  In regard to Sound View she advised “sea-level rise complicates gravity-fed sewers, sewer pipes decay and leak and are prone to groundwater and stormwater infiltration, and once an area is sewered… the region will face offsetting problems of overdevelopment”.

Long term fiscal and environmental concerns clearly dictate that Old Lyme should take a step back and take a second look. Our neighbors to the north and south, are finding affordable, sustainable long-term solutions that serve communities and reserve ground water. Sewers do provide a service for Sound View commercial developers that propose building 14-20 condo units on .23 acres, but they do not service home owners in this community, and by extension, this town. 

Mary Daley
Old Lyme

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