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Sewer connection plan addressed in parts

August 03, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council likely will adopt a more-permanent plan to limit new connections to the city's sewer system next week, but the council set aside some of the more difficult questions for another time.

The City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the plan, known as the Sewer Capacity Allocation Program (SCAP), and set a special voting session to formally adopt the changes next week.

The plan differentiates between "existing" development and "new" development, and sets sewer allocation limits for residential and commercial buildings in each.

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Some questions that linger include whether to further pursue portions of the SCAP that the council agreed to strike Tuesday, and how to proceed with the question of sewer capacity for the planned replacement for Washington County Hospital.

The SCAP is required under a legally binding agreement, known as a consent judgment, between the city and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The consent judgment was a result of months of negotiations between MDE and the city after failures over several years by the city's sewage treatment plant, in which the plant did not fully treat all its sewage.

One of the main requirements of the consent judgment is the city cannot issue more than 120,000 gallons of sewer capacity per year until the city completes certain projects to improve its ability to treat wastewater. That is the equivalent of about 600 new homes.

On June 21, the council voted to approve an initial version of the SCAP to submit to MDE. The city received a response in a letter dated July 8.

The letter generally OK'd the city's plan but stated concerns over some sections of the city's plan.

To give the state a plan it could approve, the council agreed Tuesday to strike the last three sections of the SCAP. Those sections would have allowed developers to gain sewer capacity outside the city's plan by paying for sewer line-improvement projects and to redistribute unused sewer capacity.

If approved, the plan would address both "new" and "existing" development projects.

For "new" development - plans submitted to planning agencies after Jan. 12, 2005 - the plan will set aside 20,000 gallons of annual capacity to be used at the City Council's discretion, which would likely be some sort of economic development project.

The remaining 100,000 gallons of annual capacity would be used for new commercial and residential projects inside and outside city limits: 25,000 gallons for all new county projects; 60,000 for new city residential projects; and 15,000 for new city non-residential projects.

For new housing projects, the plan also gives weight to larger housing projects, so-called "workforce" housing, and projects that have received allocation in previous years.

"Existing" development - defined as projects that had final plats or site plans approved before Jan. 12, 2005, but had not completed building - would be allowed a total of 180,000 gallons per year: 72,000 gallons for all existing county projects; 88,000 gallons for city residential projects; and 20,000 gallons for city nonresidential projects.

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