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a. What is the Malletts Bay Sewer Project?A municipal sewer project under consideration by the Colchester Selectboard to install sewers along the immediate shore line areas of inner Malletts Bay. The Malletts Bay Sewer Project is a sub-component of the Malletts Bay Initiative, (MBI).
b. What is the Malletts Bay Initiative?The MBI is a series of plans and projects carefully developed over the past ten years to preserve, protect, and improve Malletts Bay. The primary components of the MBI include land use planning, water quality, and transportation. Collectively, these components represent a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to improving and protecting Malletts Bay.
c. What is the purpose of the Malletts Bay Sewer Project?To remove human waste bacteria from Malletts Bay, to preserve and protect Malletts Bay for future generations, and to ensure the community’s vision for the Bay.
d. What is the history of the project?
The Construction of sewers in Malletts Bay has been identified as a priority in virtually all major Town planning documents since 1964. These include the Town Plan, the Heritage Project, the Wastewater Master Plan, and the Malletts Bay Initiative.
In 1999, the Colchester Selectboard presented a sewer project for Malletts Bay to the community on Town Meeting Day. Voters rejected the project. While it is not possible to know the precise reasoning behind each voter’s decision, it is believed that the primary reasons were, 1) objections to raising property taxes on all properties within Colchester to fund sewers for Malletts Bay, 2) objections to the requirement that property owners within the proposed service area would be responsible for the payment and construction of their private service lateral, 3) uncertainty about whether wastewater pollution exists, 4) concerns over possible undesirable or uncontrolled growth caused by the installation of sewers, and 5) whether other more viable options existed.
In 2007, the Prudential Committee of Colchester Fire District #2 began working on a sewer project for Malletts Bay. While the Fire District is located within Colchester, they are a separate political entity.
In 2009, the Town received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an extensive water quality study known as the Integrated Water Resources Management Plan study, (IWRMP). In order to protect and preserve the community’s natural resources in the future, the IWRMP worked toward the development of a more holistic management approach that effectively integrates land use planning, infrastructure, and natural resources.
In 2013, the IWRMP was completed after four years of work by professional engineers and scientists, which included extensive community input from 16 public meetings. A key recommendation from the study was to construct municipal sewers in Malletts Bay.
In 2015, Colchester Fire District #2 entered into an agreement with the Town of Colchester to work collaboratively on the District’s proposed sewer project.
In 2017, facing a project approaching $25 million, and tremendous uncertainty with the planned treatment option in the City of Burlington, the District’s Prudential Committee formally abandoned the Malletts Bay Sewer project. Following this announcement, the Colchester Selectboard requested that the Town’s administration explore project alternatives and perform a financial viability analysis of a possible Town owned project.
In 2018, the Department of Public Works presented a revised project for approximately $14 million and concluded that the project appeared to be financially viable.
e. Is the Malletts Bay Sewer Project a new idea?
No. The idea of installing sewers in Malletts Bay has existed in key Town planning documents since 1964, and has been shown as a priority in the Town Plan, the Wastewater Master Plan, the Heritage Plan, and the Malletts Bay Initiative.
f. Has input been provided by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources?
The ANR has concluded that the remediation of failing septic systems in Malletts Bay is necessary to resolve violations of water quality standards and that the proposed sewer project is necessary to maintain the intent of the water quality classifications in Malletts Bay. The State has also included the Malletts Bay Sewer Project in the Northern Lake Champlain Tactical Basin Plan to address bacteria contamination in Malletts bay.
g. Why have sewers not been constructed if they have been in key planning documents for decades?
Capital projects such as this require voter approval. Prior efforts by the Town to gain approval for such a project have not been supported by voters.
h. Why have voters not supported prior projects?
While it is not possible to know the precise reasoning behind each voter’s decision, it is believed that the primary reasons have been, 1) objections to raising property taxes on all properties within Colchester to fund sewers for Malletts Bay, 2) objections to the requirement that property owners within the proposed service area would be responsible for the payment and construction of their private service lateral, 3) uncertainty about whether wastewater pollution exists, 4) concerns over possible undesirable or uncontrolled growth caused by the installation of sewers, and 5) whether other more viable options existed.
i. How will this project address prior concerns expressed by voters?
1) No property taxes will be used to fund this project. Project funding instead will come from low interest state loans, state grants, voter approved local option taxes, and user fees collected from the users of the system;
2) The installation of all private laterals and decommissioning of existing septic systems will be fully funded by the project;
3) DNA analysis has been used to confirm the presence of human waste in Malletts Bay;
4) Zoning changes have been approved for Malletts Bay following extensive public input and visioning to determine how Malletts Bay should look in the future, with or without sewers.
5) Properties within inner Malletts Bay have significant environmental and site constraints that cannot support properly functioning septic systems. Further, the replacement of these systems is governed by existing state law that limits replacements to "best fit" systems. "Best fit" systems are those that are constructed as well as they can be given the environmental and site constraints on a site, and often do not fully conform to all of the performance standards necessary to ensure a fully functioning system. The detailed needs assessment of priority areas contained within the overall Integrated Water Resources Management Plan study recommended the construction of municipal sewers in Malletts Bay after four years of study by Professional Engineers and Scientists.
j. What areas would be served by the sewer project?
Those properties that have roadway frontage of both sides of West Lakeshore Drive from Prim Road to East Lakeshore Drive, East Lakeshore Drive, and Goodsell Point.
k. Where would the wastewater be treated?
The wastewater would be pumped to Severance Corners via Blakely Road and connected into the Town’s existing sewer system, which flows to the City of South Burlington’s Airport Parkway Treatment Facility where it is treated under an inter-municipal agreement with the City.
l. Will properties within the proposed service area be required to connect to the sewer system?
Yes. While we would like to provide flexibility on this, there is not enough density to make connections optional. In order to make the project financially viable, it will require an all in approach where everyone is connected. To see if your property is within the proposed sewer service area, CLICK HERE.
m. How was human waste bacteria detected in Malletts Bay?
Human waste bacteria was detected in Malletts Bay from extensive water quality sampling and DNA analysis performed at the Rybotyping Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. The Microbial Source Tracking Study performed as part of the overall Integrated Water Resources Management Plan study analyzed a total of 63 isolates collected through water quality sampling of beach areas in Malletts Bay. The analysis concluded that approximately 8.5% of them included human waste bacteria. While the study also concluded that human waste bacteria existed in several other areas, including other lakeshore areas and upland watersheds, these results did not factor into the recommendations for sewers in Malletts Bay, and the Town is actively working toward addressing these issues as well.
n. Does the presence of human waste bacteria within 8.5% of the water samples subjected to DNA analysis warrant any type of remediation?
E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals and can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Unlike many other disease-causing bacteria, E. coli can cause an infection even if you ingest only small amounts of contaminated water. Healthy adults usually recover from these infections within a week, but young children and older adults have a greater risk of developing more serious health problems. E.coli bacteria caused by human waste is considered to be the most objectionable type of bacteria regardless of the amount, and viable management plans are readily available to address this problem. This stands in contrast to bacteria from animal waste which exists in virtually every water body and has been present there for centuries. Generally there are no viable management plans that can significantly change this, and humans have historically accepted this naturally occurring condition. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has concluded that the Malletts Bay Sewer Project is necessary to remediate failing septic systems, and to resolve violations of water quality standards.
o. Is the presence of the human waste bacteria found in Malletts Bay actually coming from failed or failing septic systems?
Detailed site assessments conducted as a part of the IWRMP concluded that the majority of the properties within the proposed wastewater service area do not have adequate replacement areas, soils, separation to ground water, bedrock and receiving waters, and therefore cannot support properly functioning septic systems. As a result, there have been a total of 13 documented failed septic systems within the proposed wastewater service area within just the last 10 years. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has concluded that the Malletts Bay Sewer Project is necessary to remediate failing septic systems, and to resolve violations of water quality standards.
p. Are there other ways of addressing human waste bacteria in Malletts Bay?
Properties within inner Malletts Bay have significant environmental and site constraints that cannot support properly functioning septic systems. Further, the replacement of these systems is governed by existing state law that limits replacements to "best fit" systems. "Best fit" systems are those that are constructed as well as they can be given the environmental and site constraints on a site, and often do not fully conform to all of the performance standards necessary to ensure a fully functioning system. The detailed needs assessment of priority areas contained within the overall Integrated Water Resources Management Plan study recommended the construction of municipal sewers in Malletts Bay after four years of study by Professional Engineers and Scientists.
Other options could include the purchase and removal of all the property on Goodsell Point and the lake side of East and West Lakeshore Drive with the use of local property taxes. The current assessed value of that property is $38,260,975. Assuming the town takes the property by eminent domain for water quality reasons, and spends an extra 5% on the attorney fees for the takings, it would cost all tax payers $40,174,024 to purchase all the property. Additionally the community would lose $207,488 in annual town property taxes from these properties, which would equate to $10,374,400 in lost tax revenues over the 50 year life of the sewer system. This option would also displace 128 residential and commercial property owners from their year round or seasonal properties.
In contrast the $14.3 million sewer project will use no property taxes, as the project will have been funded with state and federal aid, the repayment of loans from user fees and LOT funds, with all LOT funds repaid by future connection fees. It also will cost the residents and businesses in the service area about the same amount as the average on site system which results in not only an environmental success, but a financial success.
q. Will the construction of sewers in Malletts Bay increase the rate of growth and infill development in the Bay?
Growth from infill and redevelopment is expected in Malletts Bay with or without the construction of sewers. The growth rate is projected to be approximately 1% per year for residential properties, and approximately 0.75% per year for non-residential. Both of these rates are considered to be low growth. As an example, a 1% growth rate is equivalent to an additional three new homes per year being built within the proposed service area.
r. Are there other factors that will prevent more significant growth in the Bay area?
Yes. The State’s abandonment of the Circumferential Highway will limit the amount of traffic in the bay area, and will therefore limit the amount of growth that can occur there. Additionally, there is only a limited amount of wastewater capacity for the Malletts Bay area which will also limit future growth.
s. Current intersections along the roadways through the bay area are already being overloaded. Won’t even the minimal growth that may occur from the construction of sewers just make them worse?
As a part of the Malletts Bay Initiative, a conceptual plan for an upgrade to the Bayside Intersection has been completed and approved by the Selectboard. The Town is currently working with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and the Vermont Agency of Transportation to secure funding to begin designing these improvements. The West Lakeshore Drive and Prim Road Intersection is currently under design and reconstruction is expected to occur in 2021. The reconstruction of the Blakely Road and Laker Lane Intersection is expected to proceed to construction in 2019.
t. Recently there have been several larger and taller houses built on the shoreline, blocking the view of the Lake. Will the availability of municipal sewer result in more of this type of development?
The zoning for East Lakeshore Drive has not changed in many years however recent rebuilds have illuminated the fact that the 40 foot height maximum needs to be re-examined .The Planning Commission has listed this issue in the draft 2019 Town Plan and plans on addressing the height and mass of buildings within the East Lakeshore Drive area before the Malletts Bay Sewer Project is constructed.
u. How much will the sewer project cost?
The current estimate as of January 2019 is approximately $14.3 million. This estimate will continue to be refined as project development continues.
v. How will the project be paid for?
The project will be paid for with a combination low interest loans, grants, local option taxes, and user fees from those properties connected to the sewer system.
w. Will any property taxes be used to fund the project?
x. How will local option taxes be used?
If approved by the voters, the project would use $2,150,000 of existing LOT funds to construct the private laterals. This avoids the need for the property owners within the proposed service area to pay for this work. There would also be an annual contribution of up to $250,000 of LOT funds for a period of 30 years which is the duration of the low interest loan that would be used to help fund the project. The LOT contributions would help make the loan payments, thereby making the overall pollution abatement project more affordable. Total LOT contributions over 30 years could be up to $9,650,000 depending upon the final grant amounts for the project.
y. What affect will this have on the Local Option Tax Fund?
Annual local option tax revenues are approximately $1.54 million. Currently approximately $519,000 is used annually to retire previous voter approved debt. With future contributions to the sewer project of up to $250,000 per year, approximately $771,000 in annual revenues, or about 50%, will remain for other voter approved projects.
z. Will the Town ever get the local option taxes back?
While there is no requirement that the voter approved use of LOT funds be repaid, there is a unique opportunity for revenue generation from the sewer project that does not typically exist for most capital improvement projects. Therefore, this project has the capability of helping fund itself.
We are projecting an annual growth rate of 1% for residential and 0.75% for non-residential infill and/or redevelopment. This translates into the issuance of approximately 782 gpd of new sewer capacity each year. We are projecting that 80% of this capacity would be issued to residential development with a connection fee of $85 per gallon. The remaining 20% of the capacity would be issued to non-residential development with a connection fee of $17 per gallon with a minimum connection fee of $17,850. These future connection fees will be increased by 3% annually to keep pace with inflation. Future connection fees and other sewer fees are expected to generate $9,650,000 in approximately 55 years, which is roughly equivalent to the expected life of the sewer system.
aa. How much state and federal aid or grants are available for this project?
Current grant eligibility is approximately $3.5 million. A recent ruling from the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources is anticipated to add an additional $1.5 million in grant eligibility.
bb. What would be the loan amount for the project?
Approximately $8.6 million.
cc. What are the loan terms?
The loan would come from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund. This is a 30 year loan with an interest rate of 2%.
dd. How much will the initial connection fees be for properties connected to the sewer system?
All current developed properties within the proposed service area will be connected to the system at no charge. The connection, decommissioning of existing septic systems, and the amendments of individual wastewater permits will all be completed as part of the overall project. Residential properties constructed after the sewer system is built will pay $85/gallon which will cost a new single family home $17,850. Non-residential development will pay a connection fee of $17/gallon with a minimum charge of $17,850. These connection fees for future development are comparable to the average cost of a new on-site septic system considering the site and environmental constraints within the proposed service area.
ee. What will the annual cost to a residential property be within the proposed sewer service area?
The Town estimated average annual residential sewer costs at approximately $791 per household which includes operating and debt charges.
Operating charges pay for the daily operation and maintenance of the sewer system. They are based on individual water usage since this water is ultimately discharged to the sewer system, and represents how much each property uses the sewer system. We obtained water use information for the properties located within the proposed wastewater service area from Colchester Fire District’s #2 and #3 for the past two years. We averaged these readings for all such properties and arrived at estimated annual water consumption for single family residential properties.
To calculate an estimate for the operating charges for your property, examine your water bills, determine what your average annual water consumption is in gallons, and then multiply by $0.010 (one cent) per gallon. Based upon the water use information provided by Colchester Fire District’s #2 and #3, our estimate for average annual water use was 36,470 and the operating charge was $364.70 per year. Your cost may vary depending upon individual water consumption habits.
Debt charges pay for the loans taken to help construct the sewer system. They are based on the amount of sewer capacity that is needed for each property. The required capacity for each property is based on the State of Vermont Environmental Protection Rules, Chapter 1, Wastewater System and Water Supply Rules. Chapter 1 of the Vt. EPR’s states; “Single family residential units connected to a wastewater disposal system with a design capacity of at least 50,000 gallons per day may use a design flow of 210 gallons per unit per day, regardless of the number of bedrooms.” Design flows represent the highest expected flows and are typically higher than actual flows.
To calculate the debt charges for your property, take your capacity of 210 gallons per day and multiply by $2.03 per gallon. Each residential property will receive a debt charge of $426.30.
Total Annual User Costs are calculated by adding the user charges and debt charges together. In our example, based on averages of water consumption in the proposed service area, the average total annual sewer charges for a single family residential property are $791. Your cost may vary depending upon individual water consumption habits.
Here are some examples using actual water usage figures from Fire District 2 and Fire District 3:
371 West Lakeshore Drive (Fire District 2)
Debt Charges: 210 gallons per day x $2.03 per gallon = $426.30
User Charges: 42,150 gallons per year x $0.0101 per gallon = $425.71
Total estimated annual sewer costs = $852.02
742 East Lakeshore Drive (Fire District 3)
User Charges: 35,775 gallons per year x $0.0101 per gallon = $361.33
Total estimated annual sewer costs = $787.62
ff. What will the annual cost to a non-residential property be within the proposed service area?
While the expected annual costs for single family homes is expected to generally be the same for each property, the annual costs to non-residential properties will vary significantly depending upon the type of business, number of employees, and many other factors. Estimated annual costs for each non-residential property within the proposed service area are available on the Town website and can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.
gg. Will any property taxes be used to fund the project?
hh. How will the construction of sewers affect the appraised value and tax bill for my property?
Properties that already have reliable year round septic and the current use is the highest and best use should not have any change in value. The seasonal camps that currently cannot be converted to year round because of the inability to comply with current septic rules will see an increase in property value if a conversion to year round is made. The conversion does not occur automatically with the construction of sewers. This process must be initiated by the property owner at their discretion. Vacant parcels or properties that have the zoning density to be subdivided but cannot because of the inability to comply with current septic rules may also see an increase in property value. For the situations described where an increase in value may occur, there are too many variables from property to property to provide any specific increased amounts.
hh. If I live in the proposed sewer service area how will the project affect me as a property owner?
To see if your property is within the proposed sewer service area, CLICK HERE for a list of addresses. CLICK HERE to visit the Proposed Sewer Service Area Map.
ii. If I live outside of the proposed sewer service area how will the project affect me as a property owner?
jj. If I own property within the Town's EXISTING sewer service area, how will the project affect me as a property owner?
kk. What are the next steps for this project to move forward?
In January of 2019, the Colchester Selectboard will decide whether to advance this project to the voters at Town Meeting in March of 2019. In order for the project to proceed, the voters of Colchester will need to approve the project.
ll. If approved by the voters in March of 2019, how long will it be before the project is completed?
Barring any unforeseen complications, construction of the project would begin in the spring of 2020 and be completed in the fall of 2021.
mm. Are there other concerns with water quality in Malletts Bay, and what is being done about them?
The Malletts Bay Sewer Project is a sub-component of the Malletts Bay Initiative. A primary component of the Malletts Bay Initiative is water quality. In addition to addressing bacteria contamination through the construction of sewers, other challenges include land use planning and zoning, and, uncontrolled run-off of contaminants including nitrogen and phosphorus, (non-point source pollution). While recent attention has been focused on the Malletts Bay Sewer Project, the Town has been working for over a decade to address the harmful impacts of non-point source pollution into Malletts Bay. Below is a list of some of the more significant efforts to date.
nn. Why is the Malletts Bay Sewer Project being focused on first?
The advancement of the overall Malletts Bay Initiative requires a carefully developed implementation plan and project sequencing to ensure the most efficient use of the community’s resources. Physical improvements include sanitary sewers, stormwater treatment and drainage improvements, and transportation improvements. Virtually all of these physical improvements will be within the Town’s public roadway right-of-way. Because these types of improvements cannot all be completed at one time, and will be at different elevations, it is critical to begin with the deepest infrastructure first to avoid the disruption of previously completed improvements. The sanitary sewers will be at the lowest elevations, followed by stormwater improvements, and then finally transportation improvements.
oo. How could I learn more about this project?
Visit the Malletts Bay Sewer Project at our website HERE or contact the Director of Public Works at 802-264-5620, or at email@example.com.