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Developing a Sewer Ordinance: One Town’s Experience

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As planning commissioners, wouldn't it be great to tell developer to put his project in area where the community wants to see development, rather than reacting to a project based on the developer's idea of a profitable project location?

Designating areas where essential services, particularly sewer service, can be used is one of the opportunities we, as local planners, have to direct growth to locations that reinforce our city or town goals. Creating a sewer ordinance which directs the location, pace, and type of sewer service is an invaluable tool in managing municipal services, their cost, and local growth.

The Town of Shelburne, Vermont, Selectboard (i.e., governing body) recently completed a sewer ordinance. Shelburne is a community of 7,000 residents, located a few miles south of Burlington –- Vermont's largest city. The town has a traditional historic village center, a still active agricultural base, extensive Lake Champlain shoreline, and excellent schools and community services.

Although the rate of growth has been steady, the town was concerned that a more rapid pace would overburden municipal services.

Another impetus behind developing a sewer ordinance lay in the fact that the town was in the process of enlarging its sewage treatment plants and wanted a framework for distributing the projected additional capacity.

While Vermont law requires only that a public hearing be held before a governing body adopts an ordinance, the Shelburne Selectboard decided on a far more inclusive and comprehensive approach to developing a sewer ordinance. To begin with, the Board requested that the Planning Commission work with it on preparing the ordinance, in recognition of the crucial importance of land use and planning considerations in infrastructure decisions.

End of excerpt

-- the balance of the article looks at the public process used to develop the ordinance, and the principle components of the adopted ordinance.

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