Editorial: Sewer plant’s limits

Keep things green — as green as possible. Limit the pavement, the rooftops, the traffic.

Few values will find more widespread support among Ridgefielders than the desire to slow the inevitable creep of urbanization.

Ridgefield is a former farming village turned suburban bedroom community. Let’s not rush the growth from residential suburb to quasi-urban sprawl.

That’s why the Water Pollution Control Authority is having the state required sewer plant renovation project designed with no increase in the town’s sewage treatment capacity — and is right to do so.

Currently the village and Copps Hill areas are served by the District 1 treatment plant on South Street with a capacity of 1 million gallons per day, and the District 2 plant with a capacity of 120,000 gallons a day serves the area around the intersection of Routes 7 and 35. The WPCA’s plan is renovate the District 1 plant to meet the state’s new treatment standards of nitrogen and phosphorus, and close down the District 2 plant after building a pipeline and pump station that will transport the Routes 7 and 35 area’s waste to the District 1 South Street plant for treatment.

Last week, Selectman Bob Hebert questioned spending up to $48 million on a renovation project that would not accommodate “future growth.” A fair question.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi recalled that at the time the sewer plant renovation was launched, sentiment among townspeople was not to expand treatment capacity — they felt besieged by a series of 8-30g affordable housing applications, which allow developers to circumvent traditional zoning limits. After a four-year moratorium that officially ends Oct. 4, the 8-30g applications are back — a 30-unit project is scheduled for a Sept. 19 public hearing, and the town planning office has files to two other projects that came before the Water Pollution Control Authority for sewer approval of 20 units and 16 units.

Ridgefield town officials and candidates for office have long spoken of growing the tax base as a goal — particularly with commercial development such as offices, stores, or the long sought corporate development.

With the school population no longer ballooning, the urgency for expanding the tax base diminishes — especially if the price is speeding up urbanization.

Enlarging the sewer plant’s capacity would only invite more condos, more strip malls, more offices adding to commuter hour traffic. And new development has a way of increasing the demand for municipal services — diminishing the imagined tax advantages.

It’s true that “progress” — as advocates like to describe land development — cannot be stopped any more than time can be stopped. But, as former Planning and Zoning Commission member Nelson Gelfman — long the commission’s voice of wisdom — once said: There are essentially two kinds of decisions: those that speed up growth, and those that slow it down.

We shouldn’t be in a hurry to turn Ridgefield into Long Island or New Jersey. That means not increasing the sewer plant’s capacity.

Younger and older, left-leaning, right-leaning, middle-of-the-roaders — everyone in town seems to agree they like Ridgefield the way it is. Let’s do what we can to keep it that way.