WEST YARMOUTH – Voters in Tuesday’s town hall gave the green light to authorities to begin the long and expensive process of building a sewage system and treatment plant that will move the city away from septic systems that degrade the quality of local water.
This year’s special fall city meeting has been postponed for a week due to the powerful storm that toppled hundreds of trees and plunged Cape Town into days of darkness last week. But on Tuesday, 283 municipal assembly voters – who went on to applaud police, fire and public works workers for their response to the storm – duly registered at Mattacheese College for the meeting to start at 6 p.m. .
In addition to approving three items that form the financial basis of a ‘Yarmouth-centric’ remediation plan, voters in the town meeting agreed to spend money to repair aging drinking water pumping stations and to building an inclusive playground and playground at Sandy Pond, as well as some zoning changes that could bring new businesses to town.
Taken together, three wastewater articles passed by voters on Tuesday represent historic progress on a massive infrastructure project that has been going on for years, city officials said.
In his opening statement before the vote begins, Selectmen’s board chairman Mark Forest described the investment in wastewater infrastructure as critical to the city’s future.
“Clean water has huge impacts both in terms of public health and in terms of the prosperity of our own community,” he said.
Stefanie Coxe, interim chair of the city’s finance committee, echoed that sentiment when addressing voters.
“The environment is our economy,” she said. “If we don’t have good quality water, no one is going to want to come here.”
Although a few residents turned to the auditorium’s microphones to express concern over the cost of the large-scale infrastructure project, which some compared in terms of scale to providing electricity to the city in the early 20th century. century, many others have expressed strong support for a project they believe is long overdue.
“We can’t wait,” said Rick Bishop, executive director of Friends of Bass River. “There are parts of the Bass River that are so sick from the nitrogen that the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Division has banned shellfish and fishing. It is absolutely a disaster.”
Bishop said Friends of Bass River partnered with the Center for Coastal Studies and Stonehill College in 2020 to launch a water quality sampling program.
“I can absolutely tell you that the nitrogen problem has not improved – it is gradually increasing every year, and we have to work on it today,” he said to thunderous applause.
Section 4 approved the creation of a corporate wastewater fund that will separate sewer revenues and expenses from the city’s general fund.
Section 5 approved the allocation and transfer of $ 1.65 million – funds from short-term rental income, sludge hospitality costs, available cash and payments for improvement of sludge – to the wastewater business fund created with the adoption of Article 4.
Section 6 authorized the city to borrow $ 4.5 million to pay for the design, engineering and licensing of a wastewater treatment plant at 99 Buck Island Road, as well as bid management services. and project related to the factory project.
The money placed in the corporate wastewater fund with the adoption of section 5 will be used to repay the debt incurred during the adoption of section 6 when these payments are due.
City officials will be returning to voters in the coming years for more funding for wastewater, including user fees that would be set once there is a clearer picture of the costs of operating the city. factory. The first phase of the project is estimated at $ 162.3 million.
City administrator Robert Whritenour has repeatedly stressed that the city wants to minimize the cost of the massive infrastructure investment for Yarmouth taxpayers, which is one of the reasons city authorities have pushed to get the sewage articles on the mandate for this year’s special city fall meeting.
Members of the Finance Committee pointed out last summer – after it became clear that Dennis and Harwich weren’t ready to embark on a three-city wastewater project – that further delay could result in higher construction costs, lost state and federal funding opportunities, and the possibility of a costly lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation, which is closely monitoring rising nitrogen levels in Yarmouth Bays.
Following:Yarmouth plans to go it alone on the sewage treatment plant, for now
Zoning of Yarmouth changes the door to breweries and food trucks
Voters also approved zoning changes that would open up parts of Yarmouth to new business.
Section 13 will allow breweries to locate in the B1 and B2 business zoning districts of Yarmouth, located primarily along Highway 28, as well as a few areas of the city, including parts of Station Avenue and Route 6A.
The amendment specifically prohibits the large-scale manufacture of alcoholic beverages for distribution and only allows breweries that make and sell beer, wine or cider for on-site consumption and retail sale.
Section 14 allows mobile food truck vendors to use city land if approved by the board of directors. Food trucks are currently allowed in business districts B1 and B2, but they are not allowed to move into residential areas under current zoning laws.
Many of Yarmouth’s beaches and parks – desirable locations for food trucks due to the foot traffic they attract – are in residential areas. With the passage of section 14, vendors will be allowed to seek approval from the Selection Board to sell food in these areas on a case-by-case basis.
Section 17 amended zoning bylaws to allow tattoo shops to open along the Highway 28 trade corridor. City officials said the zoning amendment puts tattoo shops on a standstill. on par with other personal care services, including lounges, rather than relegating them to the Adult Entertainment District, which covers part of Ansel Hallet Road.
Sandy Pond Recreation Area Improvements
With the passage of Section 8, voters approved $ 1.7 million in funding to fund the design and construction of an inclusive playground and wading pool in the Sandy Pond Recreation Area .
The playground and wading pool are intended to be an accessible and free play destination for children of all physical abilities, and reinvigorate a currently underutilized park, city officials said.
Although some have questioned whether the city should save money for issues such as sewage, Donna Roche, whose 28-year-old daughter has special needs, has been a passionate advocate for the passage of the article.
“Getting over this is so important, for their development, for their confidence, for their fine motor skills, for their cognitive abilities, to exercise their mind, body, healthier habits, but above all, their acceptance in the community without being judged” , she said.
All the money for the project, which was unanimously approved by the Yarmouth Recreation Commission, will come from the Community Preservation Act Fund. The project could be the subject of a call for tenders as early as next spring.
Yarmouth Pumping Station Improvements
Section 2 authorized the city to spend $ 1.96 million to make improvements to 10 pumping stations in Yarmouth used to bring drinking water around the city. The money will be taken from the Retained Water Profits account, which is funded by residents’ water charges.
Voters have already funded the first phase of the pumping station improvement plan, and the city plans to complete ongoing work on 13 city pumping stations by December.
Contact Jeannette Hinkle at [email protected]