BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —
Chincoteague is poised to give Sunset Bay’s sewage treatment facility to a regional wastewater service provider, opening the door for more downtown businesses to hook up to a public sewer system.
A circuit court judge on Nov. 11 signed an eminent domain order allowing the town to acquire the Sunset Bay facility in a deal that cleared it of all covenants and restrictions.
The move opened the door for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District to take over the property and its operations — slated to take place by the end of the year, said Chincoteague Town Manager Mike Tolbert.
“The downtown area is very limited because a lot of the properties are built really close to the property line,” he said. “They really don’t have any land area to develop sewage” treatment facilities.
“This will give them a viable option to expand their business and give us a way to have some other types of businesses that we don’t already have downtown,” Tolbert said.
Chincoteague and the Sunset Bay Homeowners Association reached an agreement for the town to pay $150,000 to the HOA for the lot and easements, which it took by eminent domain.
Now that the case has moved through Accomack Circuit Court, Chincoteague plans to transfer the facility to HRSD.
The move brings the regional wastewater service provider to the island and opens new opportunities for businesses along Main Street and Maddox Boulevard to hook up to a public sewer system.
In addition to Sunset Bay’s condominiums, five or six businesses are already connected to the sewage treatment facility, Tolbert said — and that number stands to grow.
The two sewage treatment plants there can treat around 39,500 gallons of wastewater per day, but permits allow an additional capacity of about 37,000 gallons, said HRSD Director of Water Technology and Research Charles Bott.
The group could pursue permits for treating up to 340,000 gallons of wastewater each day, Bott said, adding that any expansion would take place in stages over time.
Because Sunset Bay’s two treatment plants need upgrades, Chincoteague is also choosing a contractor to design a sewer collection system to update the facility.
A committee of Tolbert, Chincoteague Public Works Director Wes Parks, and Town Councilmember Ellen Richardson interviewed three firms Nov. 13, Tolbert said.
They negotiated with their top choice and expect to have a recommendation this week on whether to hire that firm, he said.
The firm will have nine months to design a collection system for Main Street and Maddox Boulevard before the construction project goes out to bid, Tolbert said.
Chincoteague will fund up to $250,000 of the upgrades using its American Rescue Plan Act funds. Federal rules require localities to commit those funds by the end of 2024 and spend them by the end of 2026, Tolbert said.
“Next year this time, we’ll have a contractor on board to actually start the work,” he said.
“That schedule is certainly very doable,” he said. “We’re on track.”
HRSD will cover any additional costs to upgrade the Sunset Bay plants, Tolbert said.