HOME PAGE: News - February 17, 2015

Special Tax Assessment District

    By Andrew Martin

    Voters in Morristown who go to the polls on Town Meeting Day will be asked to consider a special article that would raise taxes in one specific portion of their town if approved. The taxes raised by property owners in this Special Assessment Tax District (SATD) would be used to fund the extension of municipal water to 19 residences in Cadys Falls.
    The private water system operated by the Cady’s Falls Co-Operative Water Supply System has a large Source Protection Area (SPA) extending from the Cadys Falls area across Route 15 into Hyde Park. Development in that SPA is made extremely difficult and expensive due to potential hazards that any development could create to the water supply of the homes in Cadys Falls. It is the owners of property located in the SPA for the Cadys Falls water system that would receive additional taxation in order to fund the extension of town water, thereby freeing their properties from the restrains currently in place on development on properties in the SPA.
    “There is a lot of land on the north end of town, near the Sunset Motor Inn, that is impaired in terms of development due to the restrictions being located in the SPA entails,” explained Morristown Planning Director Todd Thomas.
    “If the homes in Cadys Falls are hooked up to village water that encumbrance goes away,” Thomas added.
    The creation of a SATD requires the approval of the town voters. For that reason Morristown residents at the polls on March 3 will be asked to vote on Article 2 of the warning for the Australian Ballot portion of Town Meeting, which asks “Shall the Town vote to authorize the creation of a Special Assessment Tax District and authorize the Selectboard to levy an assessment to those properties receiving a benefit…” The article goes on to explain that the funds raised will be used to construct a waterline to serve the residents of the Cadys Falls area. In addition to Article 2 on the warning, Article 3 also asks voters to approve Morristown town officials borrowing bonds or notes not to exceed $250,000 for a term not longer than 10 years that will be used to pay for the construction of the new waterline. That $250,000 would then be repaid by the funds raised in the SATD.
    According to Morristown Planning Director Todd Thomas, the new waterline that would serve the Cadys Falls area would be extended from the waterline already serving Pinewood Estates. This new eight-inch waterline would be extended roughly 1,100 feet from Pinewood Estates to the vicinity of the homes in Cadys Falls. In addition, a smaller 4-inch service line would be extended 1,000 feet in another direction to service a small number of homes in Cadys Falls that would not be serviced by the main line.
    Thomas also explained that the main restriction that is placed on properties located in the SPA is the need to deal with any stormwater runoff that development could affect or increase. If stormwater runoff from any project could affect the water supply for the Cadys Falls system, the developer must spend thousands of dollars rectifying that situation. Thomas added that this restriction is relatively new. In years past the main concern when any development was taking place dealt with the septic of the project. However, in recent years the impact of a project’s stormwater runoff has been moving to the forefront and state regulations have begun to tighten with regards to how a project’s stormwater runoff impacts local water supply.
    Thomas used the example of the recently completed Maplefields on Route 15 to show just how regulations restrict development in the SPA for the Cadys Falls system. The Maplefields actually sits just outside the SPA, but construction was still delayed for months as the builder sought to remedy any stormwater runoff issues. In total, Maplefields spent tens of thousands of dollars in order to meet regulations despite the fact that the lot does not even sit inside the SPA.
    “Developing any of the property in the SPA would be very costly if municipal water is not extended and the current Cadys Falls system continues to be used,” Thomas added.
    It is for this reason that the landowners located in the SPA who own commercial properties will be the ones to fund the extension of the municipal waterline to the Cadys Falls homes. Thomas emphasized the fact that only 10 landowners in the SPA will be paying the new taxes to fund the project. No one outside the SATD will pay any additional taxes as a result of the creation of the district, and residential properties less than two acres located inside the SATD will also be exempted. Thomas explained that the commercial properties located in the SPA are the ones that will receive the benefit of the restrictions being lifted, so the owners of those lots are the ones who will be taxed to fund the project.
    “The residential properties inside the SPA will not be affected,” Thomas stated, “Those receiving the extra tax are commercial properties, businesses, and one property with multiple rentals.” He added that while no individuals like to see their taxes go up, the landowners inside the SPA who will be taxed more if the SATD is created have already been notified and understand why their taxes will increase.
    “Removing the developmental restraints associated with the SPA is important,” Thomas continued, “It could lead to new development.”
    “I do think that this will be a benefit to all parties involved,” stated Ari Souliotis, the CEO of Vermont Donut Enterprises, LLC, which owns land inside the proposed SATD.
    “The residents of Cadys Falls all support this project,” stated Brian Audet, the head of the Cadys Falls Co-Operative Water Supply System.
    “We’ve been looking forward to this for quite awhile,” Audet added when discussing the fact that residents of his village will no longer have to run their own water supply system. This will mean that the residents will no longer have to meet the stringent and costly standards that larger utilities have to meet as well concerning water quality. A second benefit that the residents will receive is the fact that the village waterline in Cadys Falls will also allow for the installation of a fire hydrant in the area.
    Planning Director Thomas also added that while the Cadys Falls community and the owners of the commercial properties inside the SPA are the main beneficiaries of the project, it will also have a positive outcome for other customers of Morrisville Water & Light. Village water rates will not be affected by the addition of the new waterline due to the fact that the residents of Cadys Falls will be paying for the hookups and plumbing changes necessary for them to receive village water. Once the new waterline is in place the residents of Cadys Falls will also continue paying monthly water bills at the same level that they currently are. The monthly bill for these individuals is currently higher than the average bill for a MW&L customer. According to Thomas, the residents of Cadys Falls will continue paying the higher rate for a time until the costs of infrastructure on their new line, such as water meters, is paid off. Once the project has been completed, the customer base at MW&L will have also grown, helping to lessen future increases in rates for the utility. The potential for new businesses in the SPA once the restrictions are lifted also would increase the tax base in Morristown.
    “The project will not affect taxpayers outside the SATD,” Thomas emphasized again, “This is the only way to make this project happen. We’ve looked at a number of other ways to hook Cadys Falls onto village water, and this is the only realistic way to accomplish it.”
    “Over the last few decades there has been a lot more money spent avoiding this problem rather than fixing it,” he continued.
    While the plan for the extension of the waterline to Cadys Falls is scheduled to cost $250,000 and be paid back over 10 years, Morristown Town Administrator Dan Lindley is hopeful that the project can be completed under budget.
    “We believe the estimates we have received for the project are slightly high,” Lindley added, “We have been good at bringing projects like this under budget in the past.”
    Lindley went on to explain that if the project does come in under budget, then the SATD will be lifted early. AT&T is also planning to build a cell tower on a portion of the SPA in the near future and is contributing a total of $3,500 to the project to help build the new waterline and lessen the restrictions on the SPA.
    According to Planning Director Thomas the fact that the cell tower could be built soon makes it even more important for the new waterline to Cadys Falls be built as soon as possible. If the creation of the SATD is approved by voters in March, then construction of the new waterline should take place this year. The town has received $30,000 from the state to cover the costs of the engineering for the project, and the actual construction of the line could start as soon as the new financial year begins on July 1.
    “It’s a pretty straightforward project,” Town Administrator Lindley added, “It shouldn’t take more than a month.” He added that once the waterline is built it will only be a few days before the residents of Cadys Falls are hooked up to the line.
    “Everyone has the same goal, and that is to get the Cadys Falls residents onto village water,” Thomas stated, “The state wants smaller water systems like theirs to merge with larger utilities, the residents of Cadys Falls don’t want to run their own system anymore, the village will receive more customers, and the town frees up a commercial district.”
    Anyone seeking to learn more about the proposed project to create the SATD and build a waterline to Cadys Falls can do so by attending the public information meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on February 24 at Morristown Elementary School.

This Week's Photos

POLAR SPLASH 2015! Tom Moog (above) tries his hand at walking across the water last Saturday in Elmore. Below, Vermont State Police Detective Sergeant Todd Baxter jumps in for the second time as part of Team Shock and Thaw, comprised of members of the Morristown Police Department and Vermont State Police.  Temperatures hovering around zero and winds whipping across the lake might have chilled those in attendance, but it didn’t cool the enthusiasm as a record 95 jumpers braved the elements. As of last count over $20,000 has been raised for the Morrisville Rotary’s Lake Elmore Polar Splash.  The Rotary will share the proceeds from the event with the Lamoille Restorative Center.
- Smith photo

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