Town’s limited sewer capacity will likely slow Littleton Drive development

Jan 16, 2021

The town’s severely limited sewer capacity and moratorium on issuing capacity commitments will likely put the 93-unit housing complex at Littleton Drive behind schedule. When the Sewer Commission reviewed developer Pennrose’s request for sewer capacity at its meeting on Jan. 14, the atmosphere was tense. 

Before Charlie Adams, the regional vice president of Pennrose, could even speak, Director of Water Pollution Control Guy Campinha reminded everyone that the commission was “not granting any flow due to the moratorium until July.” 

He noted that the commission was only putting people “in the queue” for when the moratorium on sewer connections ended. Campinha also repeatedly said that no one was “against the project,” and noted that Littleton Drive was in the queue following its presentation to the commission. 

Commissioners told Adams that the town simply does not have enough information about its future sewer capacity to approve the development to tie into Wareham’s sewer once it is built and ready to connect in 2023. The developers estimate Littleton Drive would need 15,875 gallons per day in terms of flow.

“We all know we don’t have the capacity, so to sit here and debate it… I think it’s a little ridiculous,” said commissioner Donna Bronk. “We certainly want to be able to give this to them. The project looks great. But you can’t give when you don’t know what you have.”

Campinha reiterated that the moratorium would remain in place until July 1, 2021. 

“We put a moratorium on anybody. Nobody can put a gallon in the system,” Campinha said. “To start playing with it is a slippery slope for us.”

However, because the Littleton Drive development will include affordable housing for seniors and others below a certain income level, it enjoys protections under state law Chapter 40B. Under that law, the Zoning Board of Appeals could issue the development a sewer connection permit without Sewer Commissioners’ input, which caused frustration.

“So if Zoning has the final approval, why do we bother with all our meetings and committees?” asked Sewer Commission Clerk Sandy Slavin. 

Adams jumped in to respond, saying that Pennrose wanted to cooperate with the town. 

“I think we could come up with a plan — and we’d be committed to doing this with you — to figure out how (to make it so) this doesn’t affect your capacity,” Adams said.

Adams said Pennrose would explore plans where Littleton Drive would “take out as much as we put in,” in terms of flow. He also said Pennrose needs the sewer capacity commitment sooner rather than later, noting it was “critically important to the feasibility of the project” as applications for tax credits are filed.  

But the Sewer Commission wasn’t swayed. Commission Chair James Giberti said July would be the earliest the commissioners would grant a capacity commitment, and noted that even in July the town might not be able to commit to the full 15,875 gallons per day of flow. 

This would put the Littleton Drive development “behind by several years,” according to Wareham Director of Planning Ken Buckland.

“If it puts it behind, it puts it behind,” Giberti said. “Do you want it pumped into your basement, instead? I’d be happy to do that. We have got a capacity issue.”