Resident seeks approval to dig up town road for private septic system in Glocester

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370 Lake Washington Drive. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

GLOCESTER – The Glocester Town Council is getting set to consider allowing a resident to place a septic pipeline under a town road.

At their recent meeting, Angelo Raimondi, a septic system designer, presented a plan on behalf of property owner Joanne Lavengood, who recently purchased a property. The project included digging up a portion of the town road located at 370 Lake Washington Drive in West Glocester in order to install a septic pipe. The pipe would extend from a planned home on a small lot on one side of the road close to the lake, to another small lot on the opposite side where the septic system would be placed.

The plan included a request for an easement to be approved by the council in order to both dig up a portion of the road and to permanently install the septic pipe under it. Although it might seem like a simple construction process, which Raimondi outlined, the problem is complicated by legal considerations, as councilors and Town Solicitor David Igliozzi explained.

“We want to work with you guys,” said Town Council President William Worthy, “But like everything in government, it’s going to take a couple of meetings for all of it to get put in place for us to agree to an easement and how that easement is going to be handled, and then once we vote on that, you will have the ability to go across the road.”

Councilor Stephen Arnold, who visited the site, asked why the septic system couldn’t be installed at the original site where a house once stood. Raimondi said the previous house had burned down years ago, and the foundation had been removed, effectively eliminating any, “grandfather,” rights it had to rebuild. As a result, new state regulations prevented the installation of a septic system due to the close proximity of neighboring homes and their wells in the small lakeside community.

The land, he noted, actually includes two parcels on opposite side of the road. These, he said, could be deeded as one parcel avoiding any problems of separating them in the future.

“It is not a buildable lot without an easement,” said Raimondi. “Both lots will be on one deed with no ability to legally separate them.”

Igliozzi explained that in order to move forward with the easement, those two parcels would have to be made into one entity in perpetuity, for starters. Other concerns revolved around what might happen in the future, and who would be responsible for repairs, etc. for septic pipes under a town road. Those concerns also included the actual dig through a designated portion of the road.

“We don’t know what is underneath there,” said Councilor Walter Steere. “It could be ledge. We don’t know. We hope not. But, I just have a lot of concerns about the bigger picture. I worry about precedents.”

Allowing the easement, he said, might open up the door for similar requests in other parts of the town. Additionally, Steere asked several questions such as, “who does the work?” “who fixes it if there is a problem?” and, “who pays for repairs on a road that is not in the greatest shape to begin?”

“If you have vehicles travelling over it all the time, I don’t know what the impact is on that,” added Steere.

Councilors made the point that once an area is designated for the installation, should they hit ledge or some similar problem, they couldn’t just dig up another portion of the road not designated. Additionally, a straight length of pipe would have to be installed under the roadbed.

“It’s going to be a straight line across the road,” said Igliozzi. “Once they pick the spot, whatever is there, they are going to have to excavate at whatever cost that is going to be. They just can’t change the site.”

Director of Public Works Director Gary Treml suggested requiring not one, but two pipes be installed to avoid digging up the road in the future, should there be a problem. Lavengood agreed to do that, along with whatever other requirements were needed to be done in order to allow the project to move forward. When asked if she knew what a challenge it would be to build a house on the property when she purchased it, she said, “no.”

“It kind of caught me off guard,” she responded. “I figured it would be a challenge.”

“If I were to be in favor of this moving forward, I would really want sort of an ironclad agreement,” said Arnold. “We’re not here not to help people, but we can’t set a bad precedent moving forward.”

Igliozzi explained to Raimondi and Lavengood that not one, but several easements were needed to move forward. Raimondi asked if there could be a temporary approval granted in the meantime.

“An easement is a recordable document,” replied Igliozzi. “You don’t have that. The council can’t just vote to grant an easement in the air. There is no document.”

“I think everyone is trying to find a responsible path forward here with the town’s best interests in mind,” added Arnold. “I would be open to seeing a document with specific stipulations, but until there is something like that in front of us…”

Once the legal papers were drawn up and presented to the council, said Igliozzi, then decisions could be made. He told Raimondi and Lavengood to have their lawyer create the legal documents necessary for the council to review and, possibly, approve to move forward at a future meeting.

“We can review it, and if they are satisfied, they will have something to vote on,” said Igliozzi.

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