Pursuant to Chapter 161 “Water and Sewers”, Article I “Shared Sanitary Facilities” of the Code of Public Local Laws of Kent County, Maryland, the County Commissioners held a public hearing on Tuesday, January 31, 2006, at 10:00 a.m. in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in the County Government Center, 400 High Street, Chestertown, Maryland, 21620. The purpose of the hearing is to consider application submitted by Lawrence & Associates for a shared sanitary facility to be located on Map 44, Parcels 105,33, 301, 147, 19, 31, 145, 146 (Quaker Neck Road, south of Wilkins Lane to Lovers Lane and along Lovers Lane for approximately one quarter mile.)
The proposed facility will serve 16 homes (twelve lots and four existing homes).
Commissioner Pickrum read the Notice of Public Hearing and the proposed application for the record and invited comments from the public.
Thomas N. Yeager, County Attorney, and Kent Lawrence, representing Lawrence & Associates, Inc., were in attendance as well as Dr. Leland Spencer, Health officer, and Edward L. Birkmire, Environmental Programs Director, Gail Owings, Director of Planning, and approximately twenty interested persons, and a member of the media.
Trams Hollingsworth of Chestertown stated that she and her husband purchased property located at 7426 Quaker Neck Road three years ago and allowed the seller to remain in the property for the remainder of her life. At the time of the purchase, Mrs. Hollingsworth was told by a representative of the Chestertown Mayor and Council Office and by a representative of the County that this property was slated for public sewage access, as the current sewer system was failing. She had been told that the property is right at the point where the service area could be extended and then she could obtain an allocation from the Town of Chestertown. Commissioner Pickrum stated that the area where Mrs. Hollingsworth’s property is located is subject to unresolved issues between the County and the Town of Chestertown as to interpretation of current policy. It is the County’s desire to provide service in the subject area.
Kent Lawrence presented an overview of his application. He stated that the present sewer line stops at the intersection of Quaker Neck Road and Wilkins Lane. He presently owns thirty-eight acres on Lovers Lane, about one quarter of a mile from Quaker Neck Road. He would like to build twelve new homes on his property and has been trying to obtain the sewer allocations for the past three years to gain approval to use the remaining allocations to service these lots. Mr. Birkmire, Environmental Health Director, stated that there are seven to eight failed septic systems between Wilkins Lane and Mr. Lawrence’s property. He is interested in building a shared facility to address his proposed subdivision’s needs and the failing systems in the area. He is interested in building a system like one that he found in New Jersey. If the Commissioners approve the application from Lawrence & Associates, the application will then go to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for approval. Mr. Lawrence stated that the footprint for the site of the proposed shared facility is about the size of a two-car garage and there is neither noise nor odor generated by the facility. He brought a bottle of the water output from a facility in operation to demonstrate that the output is clean and he stated that it tested “zero” for nitrogen. He stated that sludge is removed from the facility on a routine basis and that the County would maintain and operate the facility after it is operational. Mr. Lawrence would pay approximately $250,000 personally for the cost of erecting the shared facility.
Elizabeth Kerr of 7733 Airy Hill Road asked where there are other successful uses of the shared facility. Mr. Lawrence stated that there are several, namely, Rudnick subdivision located in Galena and one in the Little Neck subdivision located near Rock Hall.
Dan Oberholzer of 25175 Lovers Lane stated his concern that this proposal would add more expense to the County. He stated that the previous administration had agreed to address existing problems, not future ones [such as Mr. Lawrence’s twelve proposed units], before any new homes are constructed. Wayne Morris, Water and Wastewater Services Director, stated that while that may be true, Mr. Lawrence has worked hard to provide a solution addressing current and future home owners. Mr. Morris added, for clarification, that even if Mr. Lawrence obtains approval today for the shared sanitary facility, he will still have to obtain State approval and then he will have to provide environmental studies. Mr. Morris stated that today’s hearing is just the first step; thus, the County would know ahead of time what the costs would be for the County to manage the facility before making the commitment.
Mr. Morris also noted that over a three-year period, discussions have continued with representatives of the Town and the Kent County Health Department to try to come up with another way to serve those in this area who have failing systems; to date, this issue has not been resolved.
Mr. Lawrence stated that the proposed facility makes use of “membrane” technology and the sludge is filtered downward. He added that the cost of expanding the facility with future membrane filters is not expensive, and the foot print need not be expanded. This is a good option for the County because it gives the County the option of taking all the homes in Quaker Estates and moving them into the Lovers Lane service area.
John Spence of 7761 Airy Hill Road expressed concern that only four of the seventeen properties with failing systems were selected to be included in this application. Mr. Morris recommended that if this project moves forward, it would be approved as submitted and that all failing systems identified in this area be included in this project. It was Dr. Spencer’s feeling that Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) would not approve this project unless the other seventeen failing systems were addressed as well.
Mr. Oberholzer suggested construction of a larger system to resolve other failing systems in this area. Mr. Lawrence stated that he only identified properties with failing systems located along his property line. He did not feel it in his jurisdiction to include other properties but the technology would be available.
Mrs. Hollingsworth inquired as to the time-line of the system because it appeared to her that no one in the room held complete responsibility for effecting the creation of the facility. Mr. Birkmire stated that the MDE’s time-line could be three years. Mr. Lawrence stated that MDE had informed him it would only take approximately six months in this case because the discharge amount is so low and also because the failing and failed systems would be taken off line. He added that he cannot even speak to MDE again until the Commissioner’s approve today’s application. Mr. Lawrence also stated that of his thirty-eight acres, eighteen will remain as open space.
Rex Kershaw of Allen’s Lane asked if the discharge will go into the Chester River and why it could not go instead onto the land. He stated that in his opinion, if the County takes over the facility, every tax payer will be paying for it every year. He stated that the facility in Fairlee cost the tax payers $10,000. He asked whether tax payers would have an opportunity to testify again at a later date. Commissioner Pickrum assured him that tax payers would have a chance to testify after Mr. Lawrence receives approval from MDE. Mr. Kershaw inquired as to who will test the Chester River water quality after the system discharges into the river.
Judith Oberholzer of 25175 Lovers Lane asked, is this system “pie in the sky?” Mr. Birkmire responded that MDE will determine this. Commissioner Pickrum stated that the application on today’s agenda is just the first step and that the ultimate decision will not be made today. Mr. Oberholzer stated that last year, citizens paid a Flush Tax and inquired whether the County will receive any of those monies. Dr. Leland Spencer, Health Department Officer, responded that the Flush Tax is designed to come back to home owners who upgrade their systems. The bulk of the monies go to large treatment plants such as the ones in Annapolis and Baltimore.
Mrs. Hollingsworth challenged the assembled by stating that anyone who plans to put a hurdle in the way of approving today’s application should articulate their objection in a meaningful way.
Commissioner Crow made a motion to approve the application. Commissioner Livie seconded the motion. Commissioner Pickrum asked if there was further discussion. Commissioner Livie stated that the Commissioners do not want to rule out parallel work with the Town of Chestertown. He stated that while Mr. Lawrence is moving ahead with the facility, the Commissioners would like to see Kent County planners working closely with those of Chestertown. He stated that it would be ideal to have a solution to the entire problem. Commissioner Crow assured that this new technology will not create new development but will address existing systems and not be extended to areas not already identified for home construction. Commissioner Pickrum reminded that this area of Quaker Neck/Wilkins Lane/Lovers Lane is identified in the County’s Water and Sewerage Plan. The motion was made unanimous by Commissioner Pickrum.
This hearing was taped for reference and adjourned at 11:00 a.m.
THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND
Janice F. Fletcher
William W. Pickrum