BELMONT — Protecting Belmont's drinking water is at the heart of a petition to restrict new industrial uses over the town's aquifer, but the result could be a heavier tax burden for some taxpayers.
At least 25 residents of Belmont, led by George Condodemetraky, have petitioned the town to disallow all new industrial uses in the aquifer protection zone.
If passes during the ballot voting portion of the annual Town Meeting, the effect of the article would be to prevent any new industrial uses in any portion of the industrial zone that is overlain by the aquifer protection zone.
"I've been trying to protect the water supply for the last 15 years," said Condodemetraky. "And this is the last time I'm doing it."
According to a printout called Protecting the Tri-Town Aquifer — the three towns in the case being Belmont, Tilton and Northfield — there are 20,427 acres of land in Belmont and 7,053 are in the aquifer protection zone.
"It would mean no industrial uses in about one third of the town," Town Planner Candace Daigle said. "A very unequal tax burden will be placed on the other residents of the community."
She noted that if the warrant article passes, all of the companies that are operating within the industrial zone will continue to operate as they did before; however, any new growth in the currently designated the industrial zone would be limited.
Daigle said there are only 14 named industrial uses in the entire zoning ordinance and eight of them aren't permitted. These six are allowed: accessory building/use, heavy manufacturing, municipal solid waste transfer stations, petroleum and propane gas bulk storage, salvage and junkyards, vehicle and trailer storage, and truck terminals. Two of them, accessory building and vehicle and trailer storage, are allowable in the commercial zone.
Anything that involves treated soils is by special exception only.
"We [The Planning Department] believe there will be a reduction in the assessed value [of the property in the industrial zone] and an unequal tax burden will be placed on the residents of the community," said Daigle.
Daigle said a blanket warrant article prohibiting all industrial uses in the aquifer protection zone is not the correct way to protect the aquifer.
She said the Tri-Town Aquifer Agreement holds Belmont to high standard.
"We are upstream. We know our responsibility," she said. "For someone to demand that we severely restrict our tax base seems not very well thought out. I don't see why Belmont would so encumber itself."
"Since they know it's over the aquifer, it seems unreasonable that they wouldn't make it an issue," he said. "We're going to potentially pollute the aquifer without a thought as to where the next water will come from."
He said that Belmont's aquifer is a drift aquifer created by a glacier, leaving a shallow area under the ground that flows from Route 107 to the Tioga River, which flows into the Merrimack River.
"It is a shallow aquifer, which is a plus for a city water supply because it doesn't cost too much to pump," he said. "All three towns benefit."
Condodemetraky agrees that nothing can be done about what's already there, but said he has long contended that the Route 106 corridor is the best place for Belmont's future industrial development.
If something should happen to the aquifer, he said, the town would be forced to put in a water treatment plant, which could bankrupt Belmont.
"I'm at the end of the line," said the 79-year-old engineer. "I would think that some young people who have kids in mind would do something [about protecting the aquifer.]"
The Planning Board is having a special public hearing to discuss the petitioned warrant article on Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. in the Corner Meeting House.
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