ZBA Chapter 40B Hearing Faces New Challenge


A letter from the Select Board upended the Manchester-By-The-Sea Zoning Board of Appeals’ meeting Wednesday night. 

The meeting, a continuation of the public hearing on developer Geoffrey Engler’s request for a comprehensive permit under the state’s Chapter 40B to construct a 136-unit apartment complex off School Street, was mainly to focus on Engler’s decision to switch the project from an on-site wastewater treatment facility to a request to connect to the town’s sewer system. 

“The change was made because it was clear to us that environmental concerns and considerations are of paramount importance to the town,” said Engler, “and to a greater extent, the citizens that have been attending all these meetings.” 

Engler said that the switch would mean less impact on the property being built on, as well as less impact on the surrounding environmentally sensitive land. 

A number of the members of the ZBA were supportive of the idea of switching to a sewer connection, although there were still plenty of concerns. 

But more than an hour into the meeting, Select Board Chair Jeffrey Bodmer-Turner pointed out that the Select Board, acting as the town’s Sewer Commission, prefers that any development outside of the town’s sewer district install an on-site wastewater disposal system.  The Select Board had sent a letter to the ZBA outlining this policy on April 26, the day before the meeting.  

The letter states that the Limited Commercial District, where Engler’s project would be located, was one of six areas the town’s 2016 Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan found could benefit from being connected to the town’s sewer system. 

“However, the first choice for wastewater disposal for any area outside of the existing sewer district is to pursue an on-site wastewater disposal system where possible,” the letter stated. 

The letter recommended that Engler provide an analysis of the ability to construct an on-site wastewater disposal system.  If an on-site system was determined not possible, then “a full analysis of how the proposed project would connect to the municipal sewer system and the needed improvements to the collection system to handle the project generated flows should be completed by the applicant.” 

“I think the board knows all the benefits that come from pivoting to a municipal sewer,” responded Engler. “So, we are not going to go through a list of why we are doing this. ... We are not going back to an on-site plan under any circumstance. I just want that to be clear.” 

“I would like to remind everyone that the applicant is the one who picked this location,” said resident Andrew Lane of 50 Beach St. “It’ clearly is not ideal. The fact that he is unwilling to provide information, or to answer the questions appropriately or to obtain another extension for the public hearing is, I think, pretty ridiculous.” 

Engler said that the wastewater engineering company Tata and Howard was doing a water analysis of the project and that he was willing to expand that to include wastewater as well.  

When it was determined that it would take six to eight weeks to complete those analyses, ZBA Chair Sarah Mellish asked if Engler would be willing to an extension of the public hearing.  The public hearing can only go until June 23, meaning these analyses may not be completed until after the end of the public hearing. 

Engler said he was not willing to offer an extension at this stage.  He said if other concerns that the board has about the project are cleared up and only the water and sewer concerns remain unresolved when the deadline approaches, he said he would be willing to consider an extension. 

A Chapter 40B public hearing must close after six months unless the applicant agrees to an extension.  The original completion date was May 22, but Engler previously agreed to a one-month extension to June 23. 

Sewer capacity 

Earlier in the meeting much of the discussion centered on the town’s capacity to add the project’s sewer to its processing plant on Church Street. 

MBTS Department of Public Works Director Chuck Dam explained that the town’s plant, by state laws, is not to exceed 670,000 gallons a day.  He said on an average day the plant handles about 508,000 gallons a day.  He said the plant can handle about 1.2 million gallons a day if needed. 

Dam said that the town was making efforts to reduce the amount of groundwater and storm runoff that infiltrates the system. 

Dam also pointed out that some of the sewer pipes on School Street are only 6-inches in diameter and would probably need to be replaced with larger pipes to accept the additional flow from the project. 

David Formato of Onsite Engineering, a consultant for Engler’s project, said that the project would produce as much as 25,000 gallons a day, with a likely average of about 16,000 gallons a day.  

Engler did say that his company expected to cover the cost of extending the sewer line from the project down School Street, across Route 128 to Hidden Ledge Road. 

The ZBA’s next meeting on the project will May 11 when Architectural and Environmental issues will be discussed. 


sewer commission, sarah mellish, director department of public works, dam, david formato, select board, massachusetts comprehensive permit act: chapter 40b, zoning board of appeals, geoffrey engler, chuck dam, tata, affordable housing, cape ann, sewer capacity, department of public works