SOUTHINGTON — A deadlocked Town Council failed to settle the question of extending sewers for a proposed age-restricted housing development on Laning Street.
Frank Fragola, a local business owner and developer, wants to connect age-restricted condominiums he plans to build on Laning Street to the town’s sewer system. The property is outside the town’s sewer service zone. Fragola offered to swap land by forgoing sewers on land he owns in the zone on West Street to get sewer service at the planned condominiums.
Republicans on the council supported the sewer extension. Democrats opposed it. While there are five Democrats on the council, only four were present during a meeting Monday, which resulted in several tie votes.
Council rules require five votes to pass a motion. With only four, Republicans weren’t able to pass the sewer extension deal with Fragola. After repeated tie votes, the council unanimously voted to table the issue.
Bryan Meccariello, a local attorney, represented Fragola and made the case for his sewer land swap during the meeting. He said sewers could be connected through the nearby Faith Baptist Church, which would also get sewer
In 2016, the developer withdrew plans to build 60 housing units on the 11-acre property. Meccariello said they now envision 31 stand-alone condominiums for residents 55 and older.
Democrats said they were worried about setting a precedent for other developers. Both Chris Palmieri, council chairman, and John Barry said it was premature to vote on the issue.
While the town’s sewer committee voted 2 to 1 in favor of the swap, assistant town engineer Jim Grappone said expanding the sewer service area would further tax the wastewater treatment plant. The sewer service area map was approved by the council in 2016.
Meccariello countered that some property in the sewer service area can’t be developed, such as cemeteries and town-owned open space.
In letters submitted by Meccariello, the attorney questioned whether Councilor Dawn Miceli was able to impartially rule on the sewer extension request because Fragola didn’t sell the Laning Street property to the town for open space and canceled his membership to the Southington Chamber of Commerce. Miceli is chair of the open space acquisition committee and chairs the chamber board.
During the meeting, Miceli said the letter contained “slanderous and downright false” statements.
As open space chairwoman, she said it’s common to be rejected by landowners.
“Unfortunately, we get shot down more than we get approvals,” Miceli said.
She had asked Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner about any potential conflicts of interest. Futtner told her there were none.
“I am a fair person,” Miceli said.
She joined the other Democrats in opposing the sewer extension.
“To me it seems pretty arbitrary just to say, ‘OK, now we’re going to allow something in the no-sewer zone,’” Miceli said. “I wasn’t willing to set a precedent in this case.”
Republican council minority leader Victoria Triano disagreed, calling the sewer extension deal “very appropriate.”
“Every case will be judged on its own merit. There’s no precedent setting,” Triano said.