No more-atorium: Sewer restrictions lifted in part for residential, commercial development

Jun 18, 2024

A longstanding ban on new sewer connections in the Town of Wareham has been largely lifted, clearing the way for additional residential and commercial development, as work on the sewer system has resulted in additional capacity. 

This moratorium was instituted in April 2022, after the Sewer Commission determined the sewer system was running at over 80% capacity, a threshold that triggers stricter state oversight. That moratorium followed up on an earlier one placed in October 2020. 

Since 2022, the sewer department has worked to increase capacity, making a conditional lifting of the moratorium possible. 

Sewer director Scott Kraihanzel “confirmed that there [were] gallons available,” said Sewer Commissioner Sandra Slavin. 

Slavin continued, “Because of the work they’ve done to seal up some of the inflow and influx that they had, we have a good capacity at the plant.”

Because of all of that work, the Sewer Commission voted at its Thursday, June 13 meeting to lift the moratorium with conditions. 

New residential homes can now be built and connected to the town’s sewer system, and homes already connected to sewer can now be expanded without falling afoul of the sewer moratorium. 

New sewer-connected affordable housing projects under state statute 40B are also allowed, according to Sewer Commission Chair Jim Giberti, who added that those projects could be built anyways, due to the additional protections offered by their 40B status. 

New residential construction will still need to go before the Sewer Commission as part of the process of getting permits from the town, said Giberti. 

The moratorium has been lifted in part for commercial development as well. However, developers will need to bring each project before the board for individual review, where the board will allow it past the moratorium or not. 

“Any commercial [development project], because of the complexities involved — it’s not just a simple flow status — any commercial [project] will have to be a case by case basis,” said Giberti. 

It is unclear how this change will impact the wider landscape of development in Wareham. 

Slavin said she wasn’t aware of any cases where the moratorium stifled commercial development. She did say that several homes could not be built, and that others could not be expanded, due to the moratorium. 

The Sewer Commission went through the list of properties which came before it and had been denied because of the moratorium, and recommended them for approval, according to Slavin. 

Giberti said the moratorium has “definitely” impacted commercial development in Wareham. 

“Anybody coming in and wanting to build can’t build,” he said. “Their choices are, either wait it out, or go somewhere else.”

The conditional lift of the moratorium means developers looking to build in Wareham will no longer face that choice.