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Oct 8, 2019 2:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor Trustees Approve Sewer Line Extension Despite Neighbor Protest

The Sag Harbor Village Board has approved a 105-foot extension of the sewer line under Madison Street from Il Capuccino Restaurant to the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church. Peter Boody photo
Oct 8, 2019 3:48 PM

Despite opposition from the owners of Monc XIII, the luxury home store at 40 Madison Street, the Sag Harbor Village Board this week set a five-year deadline for properties to be connected to municipal sewer lines after the lines have been extended past their locations.

In the same unanimous vote at its October 7 monthly meeting, the board also approved a 105-foot extension of the Madison Street sewer line from its terminus near Il Capuccino restaurant to 48 Madison Street, the location of the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church, where artists April Gornik and Eric Fischl plan to run a residential arts center.

The Madison Street extension is a kind of “pilot project” for a far broader extension of the municipal sewer district the village is planning for the future, their attorney, Tiffany Scarlato, commented during a public hearing before the vote. With that in mind, the board on Monday also agreed to formally ask professional planners to submit proposals for evaluating the current system and developing a master plan for extending it “to critical areas in need within the village.”

Trustee Aidan Corish, who is the board’s liaison for sewer plant operations, explained at the meeting that the plant on Bay Street is operating well, with only three of its five mixing bays in use, after a seasonal drop of more than a million gallons in the volume of effluent treated there from August to September.

Mr. Corish has called the sewer system the “gold standard” for treating septic effluent, far more effective at reducing nitrogen and bacteria than conventional private septic systems, even the new nitrogen-reducing “innovative-alternative” systems now required for new private installations.

The older, conventional systems, which release untreated effluent into groundwater that eventually flows into surface waters, have been recognized in recent years as a major threat to the health of the Peconic Bay system.

Ms. Gornik and Mr. Fischl will pay for the Madison Street line extension, which will pass two business properties and two residential properties, triggering a requirement in the village code that the owners of those properties stop using their private in-ground septic systems and connect to the sewer system. But until the board’s vote this week to amend it, the code set no deadline for making the connection.

Natasha Esch and Tim Coffin, the owners of Monc XIII, fully support the line extension and the art center project at 48 Madison, according to Tim Dalene, who spoke for them at a public hearing on Monday. He said they are “excited and happy” about the project and are looking forward to the end of more than five years of construction at the site next to their store.

“But 40 Madison Street should not be forced to connect by a deadline,” Mr. Dalene told the board. The property has a conventional in-ground septic system that was installed seven or eight years ago and is in good condition, he said. Abandoning it and connecting to the sewer system would impose “substantial and unexpected costs for a small business,” he added, including the running costs of being a sewer district customer. He suggested a deadline of 10 years instead of five.

“You’re really the pointy edge of a much bigger program,” Mr. Corish responded, after telling Mr. Dalene that over the next 10 to 15 years a much larger system expansion will come to fruition “so you’re not going to be alone.” It is inevitable that some people would be among the first to be required to abandon their septic systems and some the last, he added.

“The village has to press ahead” with its long-term expansion of the sewer system “and we need to require people to hook up,” he said — otherwise “the cost of the infrastructural improvement will be in vain.

“I have the same system you do,” he added, nothing more than cement “rings in a hole in the ground” that provide “no mitigation” of the pollution threat to groundwater and eventually the bay.

He said that by next month he would provide information about grants that may be available to help defray the costs of connecting to a municipal sewage system.

When it came time for a vote, there was no discussion of setting an alternative to the five-year deadline of requiring a connection by January 1, 2025 if some other condition — new construction, a major expansion, or the need to replace a failed private system — does not trigger the requirement earlier.

Also at Monday’s meeting, which lasted just under an hour, the board agreed to establish a Facebook page for the village. Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy explained that its purpose will only be “to post things happening in the village,” such as changes to regular meeting times and dates.

No one spoke during the meeting agenda’s two public comment periods.

In other action Monday, the board:

• Agreed to waive the encumbrance fees for an additional six months for the five parking spaces on Main Street that are blocked during the construction work at the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center as well as for fencing in the roadway behind the structure. “The nightmare that is construction continues,” commented Ms. Gornik, chair of the Sag Harbor Cinema Art Center’s board of directors, from the audience.

• Granted Lee Oldak authorization once again to use Cove Park at the end of Cove Road in Redwood as the staging and storage area for the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club from April 1 to November 15 next year. It took under consideration his request for a longer-term contract and permission to locate a storage shed at the site.

• Granted Hap Wils, commander of the Sag Harbor VFW post, permission to stage a Veterans Day parade from the Civil War monument to the American Legion Hall from 10 to 10:30 a.m. on Monday, November 11.

• Granted Bill Evans of WLNG radio a special event permit for what Mayor Mulcahy said would be “a mass Thriller dance” from 2 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 31 in Marine Park.

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