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By Claire Brownell
A referendum approving a study of a possible location for a sewage treatment facility in Chelsea shouldn’t be interpreted as support for the site, resident and advocate Aden Seaton said.
“I think it’s not really a yes or no question, it’s a how question,” said Seaton, who lives on Mill Road near the proposed location and has organized opposition to the site. “The referendum, in my mind, doesn’t really matter.”
Residents who will be responsible for the bulk of the cost of the facility were eligible to vote on whether to approve an engineering study to determine whether the location can support it in a referendum Sunday. Out of 94 eligible residents, 50 voted to approve the study and 13 opposed it.
The plant would process sewage from residents in Old Chelsea as well as residents of a proposed development called Centre Village.
Seaton said she didn’t encourage residents to vote one way or another and welcomes the study, which she said she believes will show Mill Road is the wrong location. Seaton said the site is too close to residences, endangers an historical neighbourhood and requires the use of a ravine that could be unstable.
“I’m not opposed to a sewage treatment facility. In fact, I think Old Chelsea has a long-established need for a sewage treatment facility,” she said. “What they did is they found a location that was not ideal in any respect except that it did not require rezoning. And so they’ve tried to fit their plans to that location.”
Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green said the often-contentious planning process has been much smoother since the creation of an ad hoc advisory committee, which includes representatives from businesses, landowners and city council. The committee has a mandate to study the options and keep residents and council informed of their findings.
“I think it’s wonderful that we’ve had these exchanges through the ad hoc advisory committee. Any way that the council can engage with the citizens on these projects, it certainly has proven to be what helps in the understanding of the big picture,” she said.
Green said the council is pleased with the vote to approve the study, which is the next step toward the construction of Centre Village. “We feel this is a clear mandate to go ahead with the initial study for the waste water project for the Centre Village. With 50 to 13, we felt that was a good mandate,” she said.
Seaton agreed the advisory committee was a helpful initiative. However, she said she wished the municipality had waited for committee members to present the results of their research in the fall before holding the referendum.
“If they had done it in the autumn, then we would have had the committee’s work before us and we also would have had more people, because it wouldn’t have been summer. But I think now they have a mandate to move ahead with something and hopefully they’ll make the right research and make the right choices,” she said.
The authors of the study will present their findings to city council in early 2012. At that point, residents will have an opportunity to call for another referendum on the proposal, which would be open to the same 94 people.
Green said the municipality hopes to open the facility in late 2012 or early 2013.