1/12/2012 - Planning Commission says no to Atlantic sewage plant

The Accomack County Planning Commission Wednesday night declined to endorse a proposed amendment to the County Zoning ordinance to change the wording in section 106-1 that would enable developers to build sewage treatment facilities on agriculturally zoned land.

Atlantic Properties LLC contended that according to the State code that public utilities could by right build sewage treatment plants in agriculturally zoned areas and that their proposed sewage treatment plant which would serve their proposed planned unit development in Wattsville, was in fact a public utility as defined by the state code.

Dozens of speakers from the Atlantic area and as far away as Melfa , New Church and Greenbackville spoke and almost all were opposed to the change. Among the reasons for opposing the change were that putting the treatment plant in Atlantic would destroy property value and property rights. The speakers also told the Commission that passing the text amendment would allow developers to build anywhere and any time and the County would give control over development to the developers. They feared the change would open the door to private development without public input.

Meanwhile others felt that the proposed sewage treatment plant might pollute water wells and water ways and at the very least, the sewage treatment plant should be contained on the property of the planned unit development itself. One speaker feared that the sewage treatment plant could damage the water quality of the Columbia aquifer itself.

Speaking for developer Atlantic Properties, attorney Mark Baumgartner defended the proposal stating that the local areas could connect and that doing so would actually benefit the environment because , he contended, septic tanks and drainfields or non point source pollutants do damage to surrounding waterways and water sources would be reduced.

Baumgartner countered arguments that public utilities should not be privately owned by citing that A& N Electric is a perfect example of a privately owned public utility. He cited several counties, 27 in all in Virginia that allow these types of utilities. Hesaid that the need for waste water treatment facilities on the Eastern Shore is urgent and serious.

In the end the members of the Commission voted not to recommend the change in wording to the text amendment tothe Board of Supervisors. Several members spoke against the amendment with Commission member George Parker citing his concern that there wasn't a clearly defined service area for the sewage treatment facility.

A motion was made not to recommend the change and it was unanimously passed . The recommendation will be passed on the Board of Supervisors which will hold its own public hearing at a later date and then will vote on the matter at a future meeting. The public will be notified when the public hearing is scheduled.

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