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Point Monroe sewer plan still in the works

t Planning Commission expected to make a recommendation Thursday.

At Fay Bainbridge State Park, the new plumbing is coming regardless.

The question now is whether neighbors of the north-end park should hook up to the system.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to make recommendations tomorrow on five proposed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, among them one that would pave the way for residents of the Point Monroe and Lafayette neighborhoods to trade septic for sewer.

The change would come via a new sewage treatment plant being built by the state in the park as part of ongoing efforts to clean up Puget Sound. Though it’s the smallest model available, the plant will have more capacity than the park needs.

Enter the park’s neighbors to the north, all of whom are at present served by septic systems.

The majority of the sewer connections would be to the 59 homes at Point Monroe, a sand spit that juts out from the northeast corner of the island; the rest would serve the nearby Lafayette neighborhood.

No recent water quality studies have been done in the area, but county health officials have responded to several septic failures there in recent years, and residents have long complained about effluent from septic systems polluting the lagoon between the mainland and the spit.

The ill effects of human and animal waste on the health of Puget Sound has been recognized as a growing problem. It was one reason for the creation last year of the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency aimed at restoring the health of Puget Sound by 2020.

Much of the island is served by septic, and the city and county in a recent study discovered high levels of bacteria caused by human and animal feces along some island shorelines.

About 20 percent of the 133 areas surveyed exceeded the health district’s threshold for fecal coliform; E.coli was also present in the troubled areas, according to results.

Test areas included the south shore of Eagle Harbor, and along the island’s southwestern shoreline, from Lynwood Center to Fletcher Bay.

Three specific systems were identified in the tests, and officials have increasingly pointed to faulty septic systems as contributors of pollutants to area waters.

At Point Monroe, neighbors of the park and the city have rallied to begin the process of forming a $1.5 million Local Improvement District through which residents would pay to connect to the new sewer plant.

Still, there are concerns about the potential impacts of the plan on the character of the neighborhood.

Once a former fishing camp, most of the neighborhood was platted in the 1930s. As a result, it’s home to unusually small, and planners say peculiar, lots; many homeowners own multiple lots, and in some cases those additional pieces of land are used as drainfields for their septic systems.

Adding sewer hookups would allow some owners to build on lots that wouldn’t otherwise be open to development, due to regulatory or physical limitations.

At present there are 101 legal lots on the spit, but only 59 homes.

Thirty-six new homes could be built between the two neighborhoods if the maximum amount of hookups were allowed, Public Works Director Randy Witt said.

The current proposal would allow for much less development than that – perhaps only four or five additional homes, Witt said – though property owners could build boatsheds or other smaller structures on parcels freed up by the deal.

Twenty-two of the 26 lots in the Lafayette neighborhood – located on a bluff south of the lagoon – already have homes on them.

The sewer plan was originally slated to move forward last year as part of the city’s yearly Comprehensive Plan update process, but was delayed due to worries about the potential for overdevelopment.

The current proposal is expected to go before the City Council late this year; a second related component – the LID needed to pay for the work – should go before the council in September, Witt said.

The state will begin construction on the park treatment plant this fall. Pending approval, neighbors could begin connecting next summer, though that timeline is perhaps ambitious, Witt said.

“If we can pull it together it will be a really good project,” he said. “But there are a lot of elements – it’s complicated.”

Point Monroe and other proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments – regarding non-motorized transportation, trails and sewer changes at Ferncliff and Blakely Harbor – will be discussed by the Planning Commission tomorrow at 6 p.m. at City Hall; Point Monroe discussion is slated to begin at 7:15 p.m.

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