North Branford votes to reduce sewer fees

Published: Thursday, March 5, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — Less than a year after raising the sewer connection fee to a flat level of $12,300 per unit, the Town Council this week voted to reduce the fee for businesses and age-restricted housing.

The council is also considering refunding tens of thousands of dollars that three new businesses owe in sewer connection fees, but did not vote on that proposal at its meeting this week.

The town increased the fee last April to set a standard rate for all residents and business owners. Previously, the fee to hook up to the town sewer ranged from about $1,000 to more than $12,000 depending on the property’s location.

But after implementing the fee, some Town Council members expressed concerns that the fee of $12,300 — which Town Engineer Kurt Weiss said at the time was higher than most towns’ $6,000 to $8,000 fee — would deter new businesses from moving to North Branford.

Under the increased rate, the council had the authority to reduce the fee by up to two-thirds for commercial uses, which could owe more than $100,000 depending on the number of units. In general, the town computes the fee by making 10,000 square feet in a business equivalent to one residential unit.

Weiss said this week that the new fee structure would take away the council’s ability to lower the fee on a case-by-case basis.

“This will set out in stone or eliminate the latitude or discretionary issues that the (Town Council) was dealing with earlier,” he said. “It also recognizes that non-residential or age-restricted residential uses are a benefit to the town and have less impact on the sanitary sewer.”

The $12,300 fee for homes to connect to the sewer will remain in place.

Since the fee was increased last year, the Town Council, which also acts as the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority, approved fee reductions for three businesses that could now see a further decrease in the amount owed. In each case, the council initially granted a two-thirds reduction in the sewer fee, but now may lower the fee further to bring it in line with the new rates.

At this week’s meeting, Councilor Joseph Faughnan said he thought the council should wait a month to make a decision on the reductions in case there were any challenges to the new fee structure. The council will most likely return to the issue at its meeting scheduled for April 7.

Town Manager Richard Branigan said that one of the businesses has started work and could see a refund in fees it has already paid, but the other two have not yet hooked up to the sewer line. The fees go into the town’s sewer fund.

“This is not tax budget,” he said. “It goes to pay for the cost of long-term projects and such related only to sewers.”

Branigan added that he thinks the reduced fee will make North Branford more attractive to businesses.

“People are looking for every opportunity they can get to get things rolling,” he said. “You want to remove … as many roadblocks to development as possible these days.”

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