After 10 years, Edgecomb is on the verge of deciphering the complicated legal and financial entanglements surrounding the water and sewer lines that connect three Davis Island developments to the Wiscasset Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Tony Casella’s proposal for a three-cottage development in lieu of a 48-unit hotel on the property east of Eddy Road and Route 1 on Davis Island has pushed the dormant issue back into the spotlight.
Edgecomb Planning Board legal counsel Chip Griffin and chair Jack French presented their extensive research on the sewer and water lines constructed as part of the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, District, a public-private partnership designed to spur economic growth, to Edgecomb selectmen at the selectmen’s meeting Monday, June 15.
“Part of the problem is we don’t know who is doing what, where, to whom, and why,” French said.
The murkiness surrounding ownership of the water and sewer lines, liability issues, erroneously charged impact fees, and oversight and maintenance of Edgecomb’s sewer district is slowly starting to clear.
French proposed requiring the creation of a sewer committee composed of representatives from the Davis Island developments that utilize the sewer system and a representative from the town before the planning board gives final approval to Casella’s application.
The sewer committee could ensure proper maintenance of the sewer system and open communication with Edgecomb, French said. The committee could serve as a solution to a problem that has plagued Edgecomb for over a decade.
The extension of water and sewer lines across the Sheepscot River to Davis Island was initially proposed in 2000 by Sheepscot River Holdings LLC as a solution to the Sheepscot River Inn & Restaurant’s increased sewage needs, according to Edgecomb’s TIF district application.
Sheepscot River Holdings LLC transferred their property to Roger Bintliff’s Edgecomb Development LLC in 2004 before the project had reached completion. Edgecomb entered into a TIF agreement with Bintliff to connect Davis Island to Wiscasset’s Waste Water Treatment Plant in 2005.
The Savings Bank of Maine subsequently took ownership of Edgecomb Development LLC’s, according to The Lincoln County News archives.
Developer Tony Casella subsequently purchased some of Edgecomb Development LLC’s property inheriting the water and sewer lines in the TIF district and the tangled relationships that went with it.
There are currently three Davis Island developments that utilize the sewer lines – the Sheepscot Harbour Village & Resort, the View at Sheepscot, and the Townhouses at Davis Island. Casella’s three-cottage proposal, the Village at Sheepscot, would add a fourth Davis Island development to the sewer system.
According to the TIF agreement, the Wiscasset Water District will process 51,000 gallons of wastewater per day – 20,000 gallons for the private developments on Davis Island and 31,000 gallons for Edgecomb.
Edgecomb has never utilized the sewer lines. According to Casella’s subdivision review application, the new three-cottage development is projected to add 800 gallons of wastewater per day to the sewer system, which is still well below the 20,000 gallon threshold set by the TIF.
The pump for sewage is privately owned, maintained, and operated by the Sheepscot Harbour Village & Resort. Casella’s application included a letter of permission from Anthony Constantino, president of the Sheepscot Harbour Village & Resort Homeowners Association, for the Village at Sheepscot to connect to their sewer system.
The Townhouses at Davis Island is a Community Housing of Maine development. Bintliff granted the development permission to hook into the sewer lines when he sold the property to them, Casella said at a previous planning board meeting.
Community Housing of Maine has never paid towards the maintenance of the sewer system, Casella previously said. Community Housing, part of the TIF district, was erroneously charged impact fees by Edgecomb to connect to the sewer lines and may be entitled to a refund, Griffin said.
Developments in the TIF district should not have been charged impact fees, Griffin said.
Selectmen raised questions about the town’s liability if the privately owned sewer-pump failed. The question could not be answered. “There’s the lawsuit,” French said.
While Casella has a stake in the View, the Village, and the proposed Village at Sheepscot, the developments will be owned by private homeowners and maintained by homeowners associations, French said.
According to French, the planning board would like to require an emergency generator and a low-water shut-off be attached to the pump to prevent a sewage back-up in case of a power outage or the pump’s failure before the Village at Sheepscot application is approved.
The planning board would also like to see a committee composed of representatives from the associations that utilize the system to ensure the system’s proper maintenance, French said.
“We’re getting close,” Griffin said. “Right now, this is as clear as we can get.”
According to Griffin, the only sewer lines owned by Edgecomb are the sewer main that stretches across the river and a small easement under Eddy Road. The water line that stretches across the Sheepscot River is owned by Wiscasset, Griffin said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Edgecomb Development LLC went into bankruptcy. Edgecomb Development LLC was not in bankruptcy when the Savings Bank of Maine assumed ownership of the company’s property.
The article also stated CHOM never paid for the sewer system due to an unwritten agreement made when Bintliff sold CHOM the property. There was a written agreement between CHOM and Bintliff that asked CHOM to pay for maintenance of the sewer system, but CHOM never has.
The Lincoln County News apologizes for the errors.