WESTMINSTER — Developers are welcoming a recommendation by city planners that the city resume issuing sewer-hookup permits for residential building.
The City Council received a memo Friday suggesting that the 18-month-old "sewer-allocation program" -- which, in essence, served as a moratorium on residential building in the city -- be lifted by April 1.
"It's definitely good news," said Hampstead builder Martin K. P. Hill, who operates Masonry Contractors Inc.
The recommendation comes from the city's Ad Hoc Growth Management Task Force, a five-memberpanel composed of city department heads charged with studying Westminster growth issues.
In May 1989, the panel recommended that sewerpermits be limited, citing concern that the city's wastewater treatment plant was nearing capacity and that there were problems with the $4 million expansion and upgrade of the facility.
The council thenenacted the allocation program, which affected plans for all building projects that had not been approved by the city by June 15, 1989.
The allocation served as a moratorium because sewer permits for residential building were not available under the program criteria.
Now that the treatment plant expansion is back on track and scheduled for completion by mid-October, residential builders should be able toapply for sewer hookup permits, said Thomas Beyard, city planning director and chairman of the panel.
The recommendation -- which asksthat the allocation program be repealed -- must be approved by the council, which will discuss the matter at its meeting on Monday, Beyard said.
The timing of the recommendation is geared toward allowingbuilders time to get site plans approved by the completion of the expansion project in October, Beyard said.
But some builders were not convinced the city had builders in mind in making the recommendations.
Marc Silverman, of James Cafritz Inc., a developer based in Rockville, Montgomery County, which built Willow Ponds Estates in the city, applauded the proposal to lift the allocation program.
However, he said difficulties builders are experiencing because of the nation's economic slump make the timing of the proposal moot.
"I don'tthink it's going to do a heck of a lot until the financial markets straighten themselves out," Silverman said. "(City administrators) probably realized growth was going to be slow. It's kind of disconcerting."
Hill and other builders had criticized the allocation program,saying the city was using the plant expansion problems as an excuse for limiting residential growth in the rapidly developing Westminsterarea.
But on Monday, Hill said the recommendation shows that the city is more interested in correcting the sewer plant problems than in limiting growth.
"I believe it certainly gives a lot of credibility to the city of Westminster in that they are recommending lifting it because of the anticipated completion of the project and not holding (permits) hostage to the very last minute," said Hill.
"It shows the deficiency in capacity (of the plant) was the true reasoning for imposing the (allocation) and that it was not just an excuse for limiting growth," he said.
"I think it's very courageous in this no-growth atmosphere we are experiencing. I hope the City Council will have the courage to take action on those recommendations."