ORANGE - The Water Pollution Control Authority granted conditional approval last week to a developer's bid to create a sewer district, which could pave the way for a 125-unit senior housing complex.

Following a 40-minute discussion the panel voted unanimously, with one recusal, to approve developer Douglas Anderson, of Branford, creating a sewer district on a section of the former Hine Farm, which is located south of the intersection of Routes 34 and 121.

WPCA member Nick Mastrangelo recused himself. During the public hearing a letter from a member of the public called for his recusal since he is a realtor. Chairman Robert Kleffman read a statement from Mastrangelo which in part read "The Orange residents deserve an unchallenged outcome following the WPCA vote, not a political showdown as it appears some may want this to be. … In the spirit of a positive voting process and to eliminate any question of conflict, I have elected to recuse myself from this vote."

The approval came with more than a dozen conditions, all designed to ensure taxpayers will not have to foot the bill, and to prevent future unattractive developments in town, said Town Attorney Vincent Marino.

"The chairman (Robert Kleffman) covered all the bases," Marino said of the conditional agreement. "The town has no expense."

The WPCA must still negotiate a final agreement with the Derby WPCA, and Anderson still needs Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning approvals before he can begin construction. Anderson must tie into the Derby sewage treatment plant.

In the conditional agreement Anderson has agreed to pay for the hiring of an engineer and an assessor to determine the current status of the Derby sewage treatment plant, and how much any possible capital repairs will cost.

The WPCA will select both the engineer and the assessor. Anderson will also pay about $537,000 to Derby just to tie into the sewer system, and another $1 million to construct the sewer line to the site. Additionally Anderson has agreed to size the piping to limit the use to only his development.

"Obviously I'm happy about (the approval,)" Anderson said. "Hopefully, we've shown that we put our best foot forward and put in the proper safeguards so the town can feel secure with this development."

Anderson said his project calls for 125 units, and is "similar" to the Silverbrook Estates, another senior housing complex. Anderson said he hopes to have all of the necessary approvals by late spring or early summer so construction can commence.

Anderson said he does not believe there is anything that could derail the project. Anderson reiterated that if Derby's sewer system needs significant repairs he is prepared to pay a proper fee, and is likely to create a fund for such a need.

Anderson said he is still in discussion with the Orange Senior Leadership team determining exactly what town seniors are looking for in senior housing. He said he plans to continue to utilize their sage advice. He expects he will have a variety of unit styles for seniors to choose from.

Marino said once an engineer is hired it will likely take up to two months to study Derby's sewer system. He added fears that once sewers were installed in the area that it could lead to a large scale affordable housing project are unfounded.

"The committee kept the lid on "Pandora's Box" by limiting capacity and the size of the pipe," Marino said.

The committee also stated in its approval that no other project from Orange could tie into the Derby sewage treatment plant.

"Our job is to protect our customers on the Post Road and the residents of Orange," Kleffman said.

A public hearing held in December attracted 250 residents, with a slight majority speaking in support of the senior housing project. But several also spoke about concerns that installing sewers could make the town vulnerable to high-density low-income housing.

Anderson already has approval to construct 22 $1 million mansions at the site, and said that could easily increase to 29 lots. The senior units would be sold for $350,000 to $400,000. The Hine family still plans to operate a farm there including producing hay, corn and dairy products on the remaining 90 acres.

Anderson said his family has been in business since 1959 and build commercial projects as well as residential.

Brian McCready contributed to this story.