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Solebury concerned with sale of county sewer system

Aqua Pennsylvania would purchase system for proposed $1.1 billion


A concern of the Solebury Township Board of Supervisors at their meeting Tuesday was the proposed sale of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) which serves some 1,000 customers in Solebury.

Chair Mark Baum Baicker said the authority has voted to give Aqua Pennsylvania, a private for-profit company, the exclusive right to negotiate a purchase of the authority.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said, the proposed $1.1 billion purchase price would be the largest privatization ever of a U.S. public waste water system.

The sale would be for the sewer system only, which makes up about three-quarters of the BCWSA’s customer base. The transaction would need to be approved by the Bucks County Commissioners. If the sale is approved, the remaining BCWSA would serve only drinking water customers.

Solebury receives both water and sewer services from the authority.

“I am opposed to (the sale) for numerous reasons,” Supervisor Kevin Morrissey said. “I believe it would lead to significant negative affects to residents including increases in water rates with resulting additional revenues being transferred to another portion of the county.

“I will do what I can to work with other supervisors who feel in a similar manner to ensure Solebury Township communicates to the county government that this should not be approved as well as any other way the township can express this opinion.”

Rules for operating short-term lodging facilities and bed and breakfast inns in Solebury were strengthened by the board. It was the first meeting attended by the township’s new manager, Christopher Garges, who replaces retiring Dennis Carney.

Under the new rules, the owners of the building would have to use the building as their primary residence for the calendar year and not rent it out for someone else to operate it as an inn. Guests would be confined to staying for less than 30 consecutive days.

One resident complained that there are now 147 homes in Solebury that are used as AirB&Bs.

”It’s out of control,” he said, citing crimes that have taken place as such establishments.

Township solicitor Mark Freed noted more regulation changes will be coming in the future.

“I think this amendment (to the B&B regulations) reflects residents’ preference not to make Solebury a community with a significant number of absentee property owners. I believe it is important for property owners to view this township as their home and not simply as investment or guests who have a very temporary interest in this community,” Supervisor Morrissey said.

In other business, the board passed a resolution urging the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to reconsider plans to encase the cliffs along the Devil’s Tea Table rock formation on Route 29 in wire to protect drivers from falling rocks .

The Devil’s Tea Table Alliance (DTTA) in Hunterdon County had asked Solebury, which is across the river from formation, to help persuade New Jersey to halt the wire encasement project.

The NJDOT project would cost $20 million for the Lambertville-West Amwell section and $33 million mostly in federal funds for the Kingwood area section, according to Stephen Freeman of the DTTA.

Solebury’s resolution requests that an environmental review by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection and less impactful options be considered by the NJDOT prior to approval of this mitigation project.

The resolution “supports the position of those elected officials of the affected neighboring municipalities and request of the Lower Delaware Wild and Scenic River Management Council for further consideration of public safety, natural habitat and environmental impacts, economic impacts and traffic concerns for the NJDOT Devil’s Tea Table Rockfall mitigation project.”

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