July 23, 2014

Chester Planning and Zoning Rejects Town Plan Changes for Aaron Manor But Opens Option for Sewer Connection

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has rejected changes to the town plan of conservation and development that were requested by the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility, but in a carefully worded decision, gave the facility the option of pursuing a connection to the municipal sewer system.

The commission unanimously approved a motion on the Aaron Manor application after the close of a public hearing on Dec. 12. The nursing facility located off Route 148 is under an order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade its septic system, and opening the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system that serves the downtown village was the major reason the request for the changes to the town plan

Aaron Manor representatives, along with many town officials and commission members, believed a revision to the 2009 town plan was necessary for the planning and zoning commission, and other town commissions, to consider any proposal to connect to the municipal system. This led to three months of discussion on the merits of revising the town plan, including a Sept. 12 informal public hearing, a November town meeting, and the formal public hearing with the PZC on Dec. 12.

But after lengthy discussion, the commission determined that changes to the language of the town plan are not required for the town to consider any sewer connection plan put forward by Aaron Manor. Commission Secretary Sally Murray noted during discussion that the plan includes a phrase “where appropriate” that would allow alternatives to on-site septic systems under certain conditions. The motion approved by the panel specifies that changes to the town plan would be “redundant” because the plan already allows consideration of “numerous possible septage alternatives and designs.”

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, who had supported revising the town plan to provide an option for Aaron Manor, said the commission’s decision would give town agencies the option of considering any sewer connection proposal from Aaron Manor. “They left the door open,” he said.

Engineers for Aaron Manor have said both options, constructing a new and larger on-site sewage disposal system that meets state approval, or constructing a new sewer line more than 1.5 miles east along Route 148 to connect to the municipal system, are very costly. Meehan has said any sewer connection would have to be funded by Aaron Manor, and would require approval from the town’s water pollution control authority and voters at a town meeting.