Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Leslie Bridgers email@example.com
WINDHAM - Margaret Pinchbeck bought a house on Hall Road with a plan to build a greenhouse on the land, but she hasn't had the money to start the business and has been renting out the house instead.
Margaret Pinchbeck owns land near the intersection of routes 302 and 202 in Windham that could cost her more than $10,500 in fees if a new sewer system is built.
Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer
She recently found out that merely owning the property could cost her more than $10,500, because part of it lies along a stretch of Route 302 that makes it subject to a fee to help pay for a proposed $37.8 million sewer system she says she wouldn't even use.
"I was floored," Pinchbeck said about learning of the so-called betterment fee.
Her calculations didn't take into account the proposed annual $285 ready-to-serve fee or the $460 that could be tacked on to her property taxes for that property and her home on Nash Road -- two other ways the town plans to cover the cost of the project.
The rates and fees associated with the proposed sewer system will be the subject of a public hearing and a vote by the Town Council on Tuesday night.
At the same meeting, the council will make a final decision on whether to ask residents on Nov. 6 if they want to build the long-discussed sewer project.
Advocates for the project, which wouldn't be built for a few years, have touted the environmental and economic benefits.
They say the sewer system would protect an aquifer into which wastewater is now dumped and could draw new businesses that don't want to spend money on building and maintaining a septic system.
The sticking point has been how to pay for it.
Under the latest plan, in addition to a $1 increase in the tax rate, about 400 property owners along routes 302 and 202 would be subject to certain fees for having access to the sewer system -- whether they want it or not.
The affected properties would generally be from the rotary at the intersection of routes 302 and 202, north up Route 302 to Enterprise Drive and south down Route 202 to the Windham school complex.
Properties that hook up to the sewer system have to pay for those connections and would be assessed a fee of $696 per year or more depending on the size of the building.
Commercial, government and institutional properties are required to connect; residential properties are not.
However, those who choose to keep their septic systems would be charged an annual $285 ready-to-use fee.
And then there's the betterment fee: $12.30 per foot of road frontage.
Pinchbeck just heard about it -- and she's been paying attention.
Heidi Cobb, who lives with her husband on Route 202 near the rotary, wasn't aware of the project at all.
After learning about the proposed fees, Cobb said, she probably wouldn't support it.
"I don't see how we would benefit," she said.
Some business owners, however, said they're willing to take a hit to have a sewer in place.
Mike Greene, owner of Mad Mike's Custom Detailing on Route 302, said he's been thinking about building a new garage where his septic system is. Although he'd have to pay the fees for hooking up to the sewer, he wouldn't have to pay to put a new septic system elsewhere on his property.
"I don't see any bad coming from it," he said of the project.
Donna Johnston, who owns The Craft Shop on Route 302 with her husband, said she's still learning about how the project would affect her property, but her general impression is that it would be good for Windham.
"Things can't stay the same. They never stay the same," she said. "You have to make improvements, even if it's going to hit you in the pocketbook."
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: