The Vermont Statutes Online
Title 24: Municipal and County Government
Chapter 101: SEWAGE DISPOSAL SYSTEM
§ 3601. Definitions
The definitions established in section 3501 of this title shall establish the meanings of those words as used in this chapter, and the following words and phrases as used in this chapter shall have the following meanings:
(1) “Necessity” means a reasonable need that considers the greatest public good and the least inconvenience and expense to the condemning party and to the property owner. Necessity shall not be measured merely by expense or convenience to the condemning party. Due consideration shall be given to the adequacy of other property and locations; to the quantity, kind, and extent of property that may be taken or rendered unfit for use by the proposed taking; to the probable term of unfitness for use of the property; to the effect of construction upon scenic and recreational values, upon home and homestead rights and the convenience of the owner of the land; to the effect upon town grand list and revenues.
(2) “Board” means the board of sewage disposal commissioners.
(3) The phrase “sewage treatment or disposal plant” shall include, for the purposes of this chapter, such plant, equipment, system, and facilities, whether structural or nonstructural, as are needful for and appurtenant to the treatment or disposal by approved sanitary methods of domestic sewage, garbage, industrial wastes, stormwater, or surface water. (1963, No. 214, § 1; amended 2001, No. 109 (Adj. Sess.), § 8, eff. May 16, 2002.)
§§ 3601a-3601f. [Renumbered.]
§ 3602. Sewage disposal plant, construction
A municipal corporation may construct, maintain, operate, and repair a sewage disposal plant and system, to take, purchase, and acquire, in the manner hereinafter mentioned, real estate and easements necessary for its purposes, may enter in and upon any land for the purpose of making surveys, may lay pipes and sewers, and connect the same as may be necessary to convey sewage for the purpose of disposing of sewage by such municipal corporation.
§ 3603. Entry on lands
Such municipal corporation, for the purposes enumerated in section 3602 of this title, may enter upon and use any land and enclosures over or through which it may be necessary for pipes and sewer to pass, and may thereon at any time place, lay and construct such pipes and sewers, appurtenances, and connections as may be necessary for the complete construction and repairing of the same from time to time, may open the ground in any streets, lanes, avenues, highways, and public grounds for the purposes hereof; provided that such streets, lanes, avenues, highways, and public grounds shall not be injured, but shall be left in as good condition as before the laying of such pipes and sewers.
§ 3604. Petition for hearing to determine necessity
The municipal corporation may agree with all the owners of land or interest in land affected by the survey made under section 3602 of this title for the conveyance of their interest. Where such agreement is not made, the board shall petition a Superior judge, setting forth therein that such board proposes to take certain land, or rights therein, and describing such lands or rights, and the survey shall be annexed to said petition and made a part thereof. Such petition shall set forth the purposes for which such land or rights are desired, and shall contain a request that such judge fix a time and place when he or she or some other Superior judge will hear all parties concerned and determine whether such taking is necessary. (1963, No. 214, § 2.)
§ 3605. Hearing to determine necessity
The judge to whom such petition is presented shall fix the time for hearing, which shall not be more than 60 nor less than 30 days from the date the judge signs such order. Likewise, the judge shall fix the place for hearing, which shall be the county courthouse or any other convenient place within the county in which the land in question is located. If the Superior judge to whom such petition is presented cannot hear the petition at the time set therefore, the Superior judge shall call upon the Chief Superior Judge to assign another Superior judge to hear such cause at the time and place assigned in the order. (1963, No. 214, § 3; amended 2021, No. 147 (Adj. Sess.), § 28, eff. May 31, 2022.)
§ 3606. Service and publication of petition
A copy of the petition together with a copy of the court’s order fixing the time and place of hearing shall be published in a newspaper having general circulation in the town in which the land included in the survey lies once a week for three consecutive weeks on the same day of the week, the last publication to be not less than five days before the hearing date, and a copy of the petition, together with a copy of the court’s order fixing the time and place of hearing, and a copy of the survey shall be placed on file in the clerk’s office of the town. The petition, together with the court’s order fixing the time and place of hearing, shall be served upon each person owning or having an interest in land to be purchased or condemned like a summons, or, on absent defendants, in such manner as the Supreme Court may by rule provide for service of process in civil actions. If the service on any defendant is impossible, upon affidavit of the sheriff, deputy sheriff, or constable attempting service, therein stating that the location of the defendant within or without the State is unknown and that he or she has no known agent or attorney in the State of Vermont upon which service may be made, the publication herein provided shall be deemed sufficient service on the defendant. Compliance with the provisions hereof shall constitute sufficient service upon and notice to any person owning or having any interest in the land proposed to be taken or affected. (1963, No. 214, § 4; amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 203, eff. March 29, 1972.)
§ 3607. Hearing and order of necessity
At the time and place appointed for the hearing, the court shall hear all persons interested and wishing to be heard. If any person owning or having an interest in land to be taken or affected appears and objects to the necessity of taking the land included within the survey or any part thereof, then the court shall require the board to proceed with the introduction of evidence of the necessity of such taking. The burden of proof of the necessity of the taking shall be upon the board. The court may cite in additional parties including other property owners whose interests may be concerned or affected by any taking of land or interest therein based on any ultimate order of the court. The court shall make findings of fact and file them. The court shall, by its order, determine whether necessity requires the taking of such land and rights and may modify or alter the proposed taking in such respects as to it may seem proper. (1963, No. 214, § 5.)
§ 3608. Appeal from order of necessity
If the State, municipal corporation, or any owner affected by the order of the court is aggrieved thereby, an appeal may be taken to the Supreme Court in such manner as the Supreme Court may by rule provide for appeals from Superior courts. In the event an appeal is taken, all proceedings shall be stayed until final disposition of the appeal. If no appeals are taken within the time provided therefor or, if appeal is taken, upon its final disposition a copy of the order of the court shall be placed on file within 10 days in the office of the clerk of each town in which the land affected lies and thereafter for a period of one year the board may institute proceedings for the condemnation of the land included in the survey as finally approved by the court without further hearing or consideration of any question of the necessity of the taking. (1963, No. 214, § 6; amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 204, eff. March 29, 1972; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974.)
§ 3609. Compensation; condemnation
When an owner of land or rights therein and the board are unable to agree on the amount of compensation therefor or in case the owner is an infant, a person who lacks capacity to protect his or her interests due to a mental condition or psychiatric disability, absent from the State, unknown, or the owner of a contingent or uncertain interest, a Superior judge may, on the application of either party, cause the notice to be given of the application as he or she may prescribe, and after proof thereof, may appoint three disinterested persons to examine the property to be taken, or damaged by the municipal corporation. After being duly sworn, the commissioners shall, upon due notice to all parties in interest, view the premises, hear the parties in respect to the property, and shall assess and award to the owners and persons so interested just damages for any injury sustained and make report in writing to the judge. In determining damages resulting from the taking or use of property under the provisions of this chapter, the added value, if any, to the remaining property or right therein that inures directly to the owner thereof as a result of the taking or use as distinguished from the general public benefit, shall be considered. The judge may thereupon accept the report, unless just cause is shown to the contrary, and order the municipal corporation to pay the same in the time and manner as the judge may prescribe, in full compensation for the property taken, or the injury done by the municipal corporation, or the judge may reject or recommit the report if the ends of justice so require. On compliance with the order, the municipal corporation may proceed with the construction of its work without liability for further claim for damages. In his or her discretion, the judge may award costs in the proceeding. Appeals from the order may be taken to the Supreme Court under 12 V.S.A. chapter 102. (Amended 1963, No. 214, § 7; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 155.)
§ 3610. Record
Within 60 days after the taking of any property, franchise, easement, or right under the provisions of this chapter, such municipal corporation shall file a description thereof in the office of the clerk wherein land records are required by law to be kept.
§ 3611. Contract for sewage disposal
(a) Such municipal corporation may contract with the State, the federal government, or any appropriate agency thereof, any town, city, or village, any corporation and individuals to make disposal of sewage for such other town, city, village, corporation, or individuals. Such municipal corporation may make sale of sludge or fertilizer byproducts incident to sewage disposal, and the proceeds from sale thereof shall be turned over to the treasury of such sewage disposal district and credited therein as is other income derived under the authority of this chapter.
(b) A municipal corporation is authorized to enter into, with any contracting party or parties, contracts, leases, or lease-purchase agreements with respect to the construction, operation, and maintenance of sewage disposal plants. These contracts may be entered into for terms not to exceed 40 years or the useful life of the plant, whichever is less. (Amended 1983, No. 191 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 3612. Charges; enforcement
(a) The owner of any tenement, house, building, or lot shall be liable for the sewage disposal charge as hereinafter defined. Such sewage disposal charge shall be a lien upon the real estate furnished with such service in the same manner and to the same effect as taxes are a lien upon real estate under 32 V.S.A. § 5061 and shall be an assessment enforceable under the procedures in subsections (b), (c), or (d) of this section, or a combination of these procedures.
(b) When an assessment remains unpaid for a period of 30 days, the treasurer of the municipality may issue a warrant for its collection directed to the collector of taxes, who shall have the same power to enforce the collection and shall proceed in the same manner as provided by law for the collection of taxes under 32 V.S.A. chapter 133, subchapter 9.
(c) When the ratepayer fails to render payment for a valid bill or charge within 30 days of the postmark on the bill or on the due date, the appointed and elected municipal officials may proceed with collection of the delinquency as provided in chapter 129 of this title.
(d) When an assessment remains unpaid for two years, the municipal officials may proceed to enforce the lien as provided in 32 V.S.A. chapter 133, subchapter 8. (Amended 1983, No. 54, § 2; 1987, No. 24, § 2; 1989, No. 45, § 4.)
§ 3613. Taxes, bonds
For the purpose of adequately making disposal of sewage within its boundaries, successfully organizing, establishing, and operating its sewage plant, sewage disposal plant, or some form of sewage treatment plant, and making such improvements as may be necessary, a municipal corporation may from time to time: purchase, take, and hold real and personal estate; borrow money; levy, and collect taxes upon the ratable estate of the municipal corporation necessary for the payment of municipal corporation sewage and sewage disposal expenses and indebtedness; issue for the purposes hereof evidences of indebtedness pursuant to chapter 53, subchapter 2 of this title or its negotiable bonds pursuant to chapter 53, subchapter 1 of this title, provided, however, that bonds so issued (1) shall not be considered as indebtedness of such municipal corporation limited by the provisions of section 1762 of this title, (2) may be paid in not more than 30 years from the date of issue notwithstanding the limitation of section 1759 of this title, (3) may be authorized by a majority of all the voters present and voting on the question at a meeting of such municipal corporation held for the purpose pursuant to chapter 53, subchapter 1 of this title notwithstanding any provisions of general or special law which may require a greater vote, and may be so arranged that beginning with the first year in which principal is payable, the amount of principal and interest in any year shall be as nearly equal as is practicable according to the denomination in which such bonds or other evidences of indebtedness are issued notwithstanding other permissible payment schedules authorized by section 1759 of this title. (Amended 1959, No. 207, § 2; 1961, No. 96, eff. May 3, 1961; 1971, No. 166 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. March 22, 1972.)
§ 3614. Board of sewage disposal commissioners
The selectboard of a town, the trustees of a village, the prudential committee of a fire or lighting district, or the mayor and board of aldermen of a city, shall constitute a board of sewage disposal commissioners.
§ 3615. Rents; rates
(a) Such municipal corporation, through its board of sewage disposal commissioners, may establish charges to be called “sewage disposal charges,” to be paid at such times and in such manner as the commissioners may prescribe. The commissioners may establish annual charges separately for bond repayment, fixed operations and maintenance costs (not dependent on actual use), and variable operations and maintenance costs dependent on flow. Such charges may be based upon:
(1) the metered consumption of water on premises connected with the sewer system, however, the commissioners may determine no user will be billed for fixed operations and maintenance costs and bond payment less than the average single family charge;
(2) the number of equivalent units connected with or served by the sewage system based upon their estimated flows compared to the estimated flows from a single family dwelling however, the commissioners may determine no user will be billed less than the minimum charge determined for the single family dwelling charge for fixed operations and maintenance costs and bond payment;
(3) the strength and flow where wastes stronger than household wastes are involved;
(4) the appraised value of premises, in the event that the commissioners shall determine the sewage disposal plant to be of general benefit to the municipality regardless of actual connection with the same;
(5) the commissioners’ determination developed using any other equitable basis such as the number and kind of plumbing fixtures, the number of persons residing on or frequenting the premises served by those sewers, the topography, size, type of use, or impervious area of any premises; or
(6) any combination of these bases, so long as the combination is equitable.
(b) The basis for establishing sewer disposal charges shall be reviewed annually by sewage disposal commissioners. No premises otherwise exempt from taxation, including premises owned by the State of Vermont, shall, by virtue of any such exemption, be exempt from charges established hereunder. The commissioners may change the rates of such charges from time to time as may be reasonably required. Where one of the bases of such charge is the appraised value and the premises to be appraised are tax exempt, the commissioners may cause the listers to appraise such property, including State property, for the purpose of determining the sewage disposal charges. The right of appeal from such appraisal shall be the same as provided in 32 V.S.A. chapter 131. The Commissioner of Finance and Management is authorized to issue his or her warrants for sewage disposal charges against State property and transmit to the State Treasurer who shall draw a voucher in payment thereof. No charge so established and no tax levied under the provisions of section 3613 of this title shall be considered to be a part of any tax authorized to be assessed by the legislative body of any municipality for general purposes, but shall be in addition to any such tax so authorized to be assessed. Sewage disposal charges established in accord with this section may be assessed by the board of sewage disposal commissioners as provided in section 3614 of this title to derive the revenue required to pay pollution charges assessed against a municipal corporation under 10 V.S.A. § 1265.
(c) When a sewage disposal charge established under this section for the management of stormwater is applied to property owned, controlled, or managed by the Agency of Transportation, the charge shall not exceed the highest rate category applicable to other properties in the municipality, and the Agency of Transportation shall receive a 35 percent credit on the charge. The Agency of Transportation shall receive no other credit on the charge from the municipal corporation. (Amended 1959, No. 111, eff. April 14, 1959; 1971, No. 97, § 5, eff. April 22, 1971; 1973, No. 112, § 8, eff. April 25, 1973; 1983, No. 195 (Adj. Sess.), § 5(b); 1989, No. 45, § 5; 2001, No. 109 (Adj. Sess.), § 9, eff. May 16, 2002; 2015, No. 158 (Adj. Sess.), § 29, eff. June 2, 2016.)
§ 3616. Duties; use of proceeds
Such sewage disposal commissioners shall have the supervision of such municipal sewage disposal department, and shall make and establish all needful rates for charges, rules, and regulations for its control and operation including the right to require any individual, person, or corporation to connect to such municipal system for the purposes of abating pollution of the waters of the State. Such commissioners may appoint or remove a superintendent at their pleasure. The charges and receipts of such department shall only be used and applied to pay the interest and principal of the sewage disposal bonds of such municipal corporation as well as the expense of maintenance and operation of the sewage disposal department or other expenses of the sewage system. These charges and receipts also may be used to develop a dedicated fund that may be created by the commissioners to finance major rehabilitation, major maintenance, and upgrade costs for the sewer system. This fund may be established by an annual set-aside of up to 15 percent of the normal operations, maintenance, and bond payment costs, except that with respect to subsurface leachfield systems, the annual set-aside may equal up to 100 percent of these costs. The fund shall not exceed the estimated future major rehabilitation, major maintenance, or upgrade costs for the sewer system. Any dedicated fund shall be insured at least to the level provided by FDIC and withdrawals shall be made only for the purposes for which the fund was established. Any such dedicated fund may be established and controlled in accord with section 2804 of this title or may be established by act of the legislative body of the municipality. Funds so established meet the requirements of subdivision 4756(a)(4) of this title. Where the municipal legislative body establishes such a fund, it shall first adopt a municipal ordinance authorizing and controlling such funds. Such ordinance and any local policies governing the funds must conform to the requirements of this section. (Amended 1967, No. 181, § 3, eff. April 17, 1967; 1989, No. 45, § 6; 2003, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 81, eff. Jan. 31, 2005.)
§ 3617. Ordinances
Such municipal corporation shall have the power to make, establish, alter, amend, or repeal ordinances, regulations, and bylaws relating to the matters contained in this chapter, consistent with law, and to impose penalties for the breach thereof, and enforce the same.
§ 3618. Meetings; vote
Any action taken by such municipal corporation under the provisions of this chapter or relating to the matters therein set forth, may be taken by vote of the legislative body of such municipal corporation, excepting the issuance of bonds and, in municipalities wherein such body is not otherwise given the power to levy taxes, the levying of a tax under section 3613 of this title; provided, however, that no action shall be taken hereunder unless the construction of a sewage disposal plant shall have first been authorized by majority vote of the legal voters of such municipal corporation attending a meeting duly warned and holden.
§§ 3619-3624. Repealed. 1971, No. 97, § 6, eff. April 22, 1971.
§ 3625. Allocation of sewage capacity
(a) When capacity under an original or amended discharge permit under 10 V.S.A. § 1263 is or has been granted to any municipality, as defined in 1 V.S.A. § 126, except existing town school districts or incorporated school districts, that capacity shall be allocated, in a manner consistent with a municipality’s obligation to its bondholders to establish rates and apply the proceeds as set forth in section 3616 of this title, pursuant to one of the following, whether in the form as adopted, or as later amended:
(1) An ordinance adopted under sections 1972 and 1973 of this title. This ordinance may authorize the municipality to include, in any specific allocation, phasing provisions and other conditions intended to implement provisions of a municipal plan adopted under section 4385 of this title or bylaws adopted under section 4442 of this title.
(2) Bylaws adopted under section 4442 of this title.
(3) Interim bylaws adopted under section 4415 of this title.
(b) Until an ordinance, interim bylaw, or bylaw for allocation of capacity is adopted by a municipality that grants zoning permits pursuant to the provisions of section 4449 of this title:
(1) Capacity may be allocated in amounts not to exceed 6,500 gallons per day, per recipient, and only upon granting of such a permit.
(2) Capacity allocated in conjunction with a permit granted pursuant to the provisions of section 4443 of this title shall revert to the municipality if the permit recipient has failed to initiate construction within one year of the issuance of the permit or has failed to complete construction within three years of the issuance of the permit. At the end of the three-year period, the reserve capacity associated with any unconstructed portion of the project, as determined by the legislative body of the municipality, shall revert to the issuing municipality unless that municipality has specifically required that construction proceed over a period longer than three years.
(3) The legislative body of the municipality shall make the final determination with respect to whether construction has been initiated or completed.
(c) Until an ordinance for allocation of capacity is adopted by a municipality that does not grant zoning permits pursuant to the provisions of section 4449 of this title:
(1) Capacity may be allocated only in amounts not to exceed 6,500 gallons per day, per recipient, and only upon granting of capacity by the municipal legislative body during a duly warned meeting.
(2) Capacity allocated under this subsection shall revert to the municipality if the capacity recipient has failed to initiate construction within one year of the issuance of the allocation or has failed to complete construction within three years of the issuance of the allocation. At the end of the three-year period, the reserve capacity associated with any unconstructed portion of the project, as determined by the legislative body of the municipality, shall revert to the issuing municipality unless that municipality has specifically required that construction proceed over a period longer than three years.
(3) The legislative body of the municipality shall make the final determination with respect to whether construction has been initiated or completed.
(d) When a municipality is not a town, city, or incorporated village, the towns, cities, or incorporated villages in which the municipality is located shall allocate capacity within their corporate boundaries in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(e) This section shall not apply to capacity that is committed or allocated before July 1, 1989. Capacity is committed by a town, city, incorporated village, or fire district when, following issuance of an original or amended discharge permit, formal action to commit is taken by the legislative body at a duly warned meeting. Capacity obtained by a municipality through an intermunicipal contract that existed on July 1, 1989, shall be treated as capacity granted to that municipality, and shall be distributed by that municipality according to the provisions of this section. (Added 1989, No. 116, § 1; amended 2003, No. 63, § 52, eff. June 11, 2003; 2019, No. 131 (Adj. Sess.), § 267.)