Town adopts new water model

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The town of Essex will charge developers a fee for any project that uses its new water projection model, which officials say will help anticipate future impacts to public works infrastructure.

For the past few years, public works has developed a computer model that digitally connects two separate water zones fed by the Champlain Water District.

The model, approved by the selectboard on September 26, can predict how a development’s anticipated water demand might impact the municipal water system, explained public works director Dennis Lutz.

“It’s cost us some money; it’s cost us some time. We can absorb that,” Lutz said of the model. “We think it’s important enough.”

So far, the town has spent $20,000 to purchase and field-test the program. Lutz also anticipates future payments to engineering company Aldrich and Elliot, which will run the model on an on-call basis.

Lutz said the town is not looking to profit from the model, but rather to offset some costs by charging developers whenever it needs to be run.

The fee consists of two parts: a base fee of $250 covers the model’s development cost and any additional costs incurred by A&E during the model’s usage. The company expects those to range from $250 to $750 at most.

Projects that require additional infrastructure or extensions of what’s already there will trigger the model’s usage, as will any project that requires capacity beyond 125 percent of the current approved allocation for the site or 500 gallons per day, whichever is greater.

Staff will also require the model whenever projects are sited in areas with potential deficiencies in water service or whenever it’s in the town’s best interest.

Some projects may require additional modeling to satisfy state or Act 250 requirements, Lutz added, which would also be charged to the developer.

Lutz said the model will prove extremely important as plans to develop the Essex Town Center and surrounding properties advance through the regulatory process.

“We believe that we want to utilize this in almost every case of the major developments that come in,” Lutz said.

In August, developer Peter Edelmann presented his revamp efforts for the Essex Outlets, with conceptual plans showing hundreds of new residential units.

Edelmann acknowledged town staff had previously told him such an undertaking would require additional infrastructure.

Lutz said he believes developers will be happy with the new system, because previously, staff had to return to them frequently with questions about their project’s impact.

“This is a cheaper version; it’s actually going to save them in the long run,” Lutz said.