Milton tables ordinance on outdoor water use

Residents oppose restrictions during peak usage months
August 2, 2014

A proposal to establish water conservation practices in Milton drew a packed house of residents at the July 7 Milton Town Council meeting, with many people opposed to the plan.

The proposed ordinance would have established restrictions on outdoor water use during peak usage, May 1 through Sept. 30 by allowing lalwn watering and other uses on even-numbered days for people with even-numbered addresses and on odd days for those with odd-numbered addresses.

Resident Ed Harris told council the measure is not for conservation but for water restrictions.

Permanent water restrictions would have repercussions on the town's economy, marketing capability and on property values, Harris said.

Unless a drought or a mechanical failure occurred, causing a water crisis, he said, he expected to have unrestricted water use.

“If there is a water crisis in this town, which is basically what you are saying there is at this time, warranting restrictions, then we need to stop all additional strains on the water system and stop any new developments or projects,” Harris said. “Put a moratorium on any growth or projects. If we can’t supply any water to our existing residents, then no new projects should commence.”

Harris also said instead of asking residents to restrict usage, the town should impose a tax or surcharge on major water users.

Mayor Jones reassured the crowd here is no water crisis.

“I do not remember ever a single word spoken about a water crisis. This came about because the water committee made the recommendation to council,” she said. While the committee proposed a year-round plan, Jones said, “The council thought that was far too strict."

Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said the town charter clearly identifies the council's ability to regulate water use.

“Currently there isn’t some recognized right to water your lawn on a daily basis. I want people to understand from a legal framework, the council has the authority to regulate water use.”

Harris also said water restrictions run contrary to efforts to promote tourism, noting the work of the garden club to tap into ecotourism.

“We should be encouraging the greening of the town, adding to our economic value and tourism appeal,” he said. “Now we have a handful of people who have made a decision that we should have a desert environment by not watering.”

Tapping into an earlier complaint about trees that had been severely pruned, Harris said, “They butchered the trees, and we are going to have dead flowers from the lack of water or people are refrained from planting their gardens because they can’t water,” he said. “This is just one more legacy you all are going to leave the town.”

The measure was tabled.

Earlier in the meeting, Gary Smith, co-president of the Milton Garden Club, said the club was disappointed it had not been informed before the town's zelkova trees were topped.

Smith cited an email forwarded to council, in which Urban & Community Forestry Coordinator of the Delaware Forest Service Kyle Hoyd wrote topping is not approved by the forest service because of issues it causes. Hoyd recommended reviewing the future of the trees and the cost to the town of maintaining them.

Jones said she understood removal of the trees or a long-term plan for maintenance would be presented to the garden club. “I don’t remember anything specifically about the trimming of the trees,” Jones said. “So being in that meeting, I just want to say that was not my understanding.”

Regular monthly council meetings are held the first Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Milton Library.