The City Council voted Monday to put an end to the 19-month-old moratorium on sewer hookup permits for residential building.

The council passed the resolution rescinding the ban unanimously Monday, but quickly added that if the treatment plant work were to stall again, the council would not hesitate to re-enact the moratorium.

City planners became concerned two years ago when expansion and upgrade of the city's wastewater treatment plant bogged down, and new residential building pushed the facility's workload near capacity. The council enacted the "sewer allocation program" in June 1989.

Now, builders can apply for permits beginning April 1.

Hampstead developer Martin K. P. Hill, who along with other builders had criticizedthe moratorium, commended the council's action.

"It's a very credible move on the part of the City Council," said Hill, president of Masonry Contractors Inc.

The council's action results from a recentrecommendation from a city task force that studies growth issues facing Westminster.

In a January report, the Ad Hoc Growth ManagementTask Force advised the council to lift the ban, saying work on the treatment plant was proceeding on schedule and should be completed by Oct. 15.

The task force said in January that if the moratorium were lifted soon, the building permit process would mean residential building wouldn't begin until October.

The task force had recommendedthe moratorium put in place in May 1989. The ban affected building projects whose final plat designs were not approved by June 15, 1989.

Hill and other builders previously decried the moratorium, saying the city was using plant expansion problems as an excuse for limitingresidential growth in the rapidly developing Westminster area.

However, Hill said yesterday that the council's rescinding of the moratorium sent a different message.

"They (council members) recognizedthe fact that they could lift the sewer moratorium without the expansion being completed because there will be no increase in flows the day you issue a building permit," he said. "I applaud them for that."

The $4 million upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant will boost the facility's daily capacity from 3 million gallons to 5 million.

The project was delayed when the expansion went over budget at theplant, located on Little Pipe Creek Road.

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