OLD LYME — A debate arose during the Halls Road Improvements Committee meeting on Feb. 11 about whether wastewater systems are within the scope of the Halls Road master plan, a document that BSC Group is currently working on.
Also of importance was the committee’s awareness of a proposed gas station and convenience store slated for two unbuilt parcels, one at 99 Halls Road — a project that could be approved before the master plan is completed.
At the last two Halls Road Improvement Committee meetings, engineers from BSC Group fielded questions about whether private developers could install traditional or alternative septic systems for projects along Halls Road and whether those systems would be approved by state and local officials.
“We have confirmed that the State of Connecticut has and is able to permit what we call alternate treatment systems,” said Kurt Prochorena, a vice president at BSC, at the Feb. 11 meeting, adding that his group had also been in contact with Ledge Light Health District about the issue.
In October, the town hired BSC for $48,000 to create a master plan for Halls Road, to include an assessment of retail, commercial and housing markets and redevelopment possibilities as well as a real estate market analysis subcontracted to Bartram & Cochran of Hartford.
Prochorena described two types of septic systems — a package system that costs more but discharges essentially clean water and an “enhanced” system that treats wastewater before it’s released into the ground.
Edie Twining, chair of the committee, asked whether the geography along Halls Road, which includes ledge, wetlands and marshland, could accommodate package or alternate septic systems, since any large-scale new development will require wastewater infrastructure.
Prochorena said shallow groundwater, found in wetlands and marsh areas, was not conducive to the successful installation of septic systems, nor was ledge. Even with an enhanced septic system, there has to be a place for the discharged water to go, otherwise drinking water wells and wetlands could be at risk.
“So that’s another thing in this area because there’s no public water,” he said.
Any project site that has shallow groundwater would probably struggle with a larger scale system, he said. A package system could accommodate larger quantities and does not rely on the quality of the soil, but the tradeoff is the higher expense.
“It sounds like we’ve got lots of options, since we have various issues one way or another but there’s still possibilities,” said Twining.
Committee member David Kelsey said the topic of wastewater was relevant to a developer or property owner but not the Halls Road Improvements Committee or the masterplan.
“When you say ‘we,’ though, Edie, you mean a developer or somebody, an owner of a property, right? Because what we’ve just discussed for the last 10 minutes really is more pertinent for somebody who’s purchasing a property and would like to do something with it, right?” Kelsey said.
Twining agreed that the topic was more relevant to a developer or land purchaser but said “we” referred to the committee and the town gathering enough information to make an informed decision about whether to change the zoning on Halls Road, which is currently zoned commercial, to allow other uses.
“We don’t want to make a change in zoning if it’s totally impossible for a developer or property owner to take an action on that new zoning option,” she said.
Kelsey said there was “no harm, no foul” if the town makes the zoning change and it was later discovered that putting in wastewater treatment systems was impossible on Halls Road.
“I just don’t want to be spending a lot of time on something that is money that we should be spending, potentially elsewhere on issues that might not be as pertinent for a Halls Road Improvements Committee compared to a private developer or existing owner of a property,” he said.
Twining said she had heard multiple times that people are worried about this issue and she wanted to make sure it was possible to create future development by changing the zoning on the road.
“It’s not like we’re spending tons of dollars to make sure we know this. We certainly are not developing any kind of septic system one way or another, we’re just making sure there are options that are available,” she said.
Committee member Howard Margules suggested the committee look at installed alternative septic systems in other shoreline towns to find out if there are issues after
“I don’t think it’s a Halls Road Improvements Committee issue, I really don’t,” Kelsey said to Margules.
Twining reiterated that she did not want to create a master plan that is not feasible for the future development.
“That’s the only reason to be concerned about this. We’ve been challenged on that,” she said.
Margules repeated that it was important for the town to know in advance whether issues developed after an installation of an alternate septic system.
Kelsey said the question was beyond the scope of the committee.
“I can’t think of a circumstance that you’re describing that would require a Halls Road Improvements Committee to explore that issue. That’s my point,” he said.
Committee member Matt Merritt, who is president of the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, pointed out that the beach communities looked at a community septic system behind Cherrystones on Route 156 about seven years ago, but the project was rejected because of its proximity to several wells and the beach communities. He said the wastewater topic was more relevant to the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority. .
“I don’t think this is a position or a discussion for this committee … I think it’s outside of the scope of our guidelines,” he said.
Committee member Deb Czarnecki pointed out that the Big-Y Express project at 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road had been on the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission agenda on Jan. 26.
“It’s just a very relevant thing to watch for this group because, you know, it’s going to turn the Halls Road into a truck stop in my opinion,” said Czarnecki.
In that meeting, Chair Rachael Gaudio stated that if the commission determined that there is a “significant impact” from the project, then the “commission is required to hold a public hearing no later than 65 days after receipt,” according to the Jan. 26 minutes.
The commission decided to do a site walk on Jan. 30 prior to making a decision about whether the project would have significant impact, but did not make a decision at the site walk.
The definition of “significant impact” is found on page 5 of Inland Wetlands regulations.
As of yet, no significant impact was determined. Members of the public have the right to present a petition requiring a public hearing under Section 9.1 of town regulations.
As a matter of transparency, please note that Dave Kelsey, quoted in this story, is the primary funder and co-founder of CT Examiner. Kelsey had no role in the reporting of this story, nor in the choice to report this story.