Southampton Town’s plans for a sewer district in the waterfront hamlet of Riverside picked up some speed over the summer with the completion of a feasibility study, preliminary boundary lines, and the commitment of funds to the project.
The district plans for the “ultimate buildout” of downtown Riverside near the traffic circle and the plan allows for 1000 affordable housing rental units, Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone said. The town may never build the housing units, Zappone explained, but officials still have to plan for the potential.
The district would also be able to accommodate plans for a new boutique hotel at the site of the former Peconic Paddler, overlooking the west side of the river, along with a medical center, which just broke ground last month on the south side of the traffic circle, not to mention other commercial developments that are in the pipeline. Zappone declined comment on the specifics because though the town has been in discussions with private developers, the plans have not been made public.
As they are drawn now, the sewer district’s boundaries run from a just a little west of County Road 105 to the town’s Enterprise Zone, once the location of a drive-in movie theater, to just off of Route 24 or Flanders Road, then north to the traffic circle and area near the Suffolk County Center where there are residential homes. As part of the plans, an 800,000-gallon sewage treatment plant will be constructed on two parcels of land, roughly about two acres that the town has purchased near its Enterprise Zone, which is off of Enterprise Zone Drive, just south of Flanders Road. The plant would be constructed in four phases in increments of 200,000 gallons to address development as it moves along.
“The goal is to complete that phase by June 2020,” Zappone said.
Town officials expect the Geographical Environmental Information Study, which is required under state environmental guidelines, to be completed by December.
To move the project along, the town has received an initial commitment of $111 million in financing from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation.
Before the sewer district is created, the town would have to hold a series of public hearings explaining the scope of the project and how it would affect residents. Then it would have to be placed up for a public referendum and approved in order to move forward. The town’s original timeline had the vote coming sometime this year, however, Zappone does not expect that to happen this coming November. He said the referendum could be scheduled after that in the form of a special election, which is allowed under state law.
Right now, officials are working on whether or not the Riverwoods Mobile Home Community would like to be included in the district. There are about 250 homes at the location that are currently serviced by individual septic tanks. “There is a lot of potential there, but it is unknown whether they would engage in the process,” he said.
Zappone said community members from the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association were instrumental in helping the town iron out the Riverside Redevelopment Action Plan. They supplied insight into the area and made suggestions for what they would like to see in the future. Members identified more business and a mix of housing opportunities, something that would need to be supported by a sewer district.
“The hamlet of Riverside has this great history, but for the past 25 years, I have only known it as struggling,” said FRNCA president Ron Fisher, adding that the sewer district will allow the land in the hamlet to be developed to encourage visitors and become a desirable place to live with a mixed choice of housing, including affordable housing such as studios, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments. The addition of housing would also increase economic growth in the hamlet. “With housing, then business will really come,” he’s said.
Kevin McAllister, executive director of Defend H2O, an environmental watch group that focuses on water quality, noted a sewer district would be appropriate for any private or public plan to redevelop an area. “The use of an STP should be a component of each and every plan. That is absolute,” he said. “I urge them to seek out a system that will achieve the highest level of sewage removal.”