The Lloyd Town Board approved a resolution 4 -1 that will allow developer Dan Gueron to continue moving forward on his proposed 166 home development project known as Falcon Ridge off of Upper North Road. Gueron, however, will have to begin a deeper environmental and impact review as per the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Voting in favor were Supervisor Dave Plavchak, John Fraino, Lenny Auchmoody and Mike Guerriero, with the sole no vote cast by councilman Joe Mazzetti.
The Falcon Ridge housing project lies outside of the town’s sewer district and Gueron is proposing to build, operate and maintain a private sewer plant on the property to serve the homes in the subdivision. He initially said he would build a sewer line from his site, run it down Route 9W and tie it into the town’s system at Grand Street. After calculating the cost, he fell back to an on-site plant. He has stated publicly that for the project to be financially viable he needs the town to grant him permission to construct a private sewer plant. When Mazzetti suggested re-designing the overall layout with larger lots, so each home would have their own well and septic system, Gueron said this would result in the home total falling far below his 166 target figure, which again would negatively impact his bottom line.
The wording in the resolution itself highlights the Town Board’s reticence about these plants, pointing out that they have the “potential to result in significant adverse financial and environmental impacts to the Town of Lloyd” and that the town prefers for subdivisions to have their wastewater run through existing or extended sewer districts that are administered by the town.
In the past year a number of town officials have come out against private sewer plants being built in town, notably Building Department Director Dave Barton, Supervisor Plavchak, councilman Joe Mazzetti and a number of Planning Board members. They point out that if a developer reneges on his responsibility to properly run a plant or if it fails, the Department of Environmental Conservation [DEC] would force the town to take it over, putting the taxpayers on the hook for the costs of providing this service to the affected residents.
A number of weeks ago the Town Board drew up a law aimed at prohibiting the construction of any private sewer plants in town.
They have not brought it up for a vote, and instead the resolution the board approved last week does not shut this option down. Instead this may create a scenario where Gueron, after spending a significant amount of time and money in project reviews, could turn around and sue the town if they vote to stop all private sewer plants in town.
This argument was made by Councilman Mazzetti at a tri-board meeting that took place immediately prior to the Town Board meeting. He pointed out that a 31 home subdivision that was built 50 years on Sharon Drive all share a water system. Should that system fail, the town would have to find a way to provide water to them in perpetuity.
“What I am upset with is we’re told that we can just say no and now we’re being told we just can’t say no,” he said. “Do we as a Town Board say screw it, we ain’t allowing it, sue us if you want and let the chips show that’s what we stand for.”
Planning Board Chairman Scott McCarthy emphasized Mazzetti’s argument.
“You have a good example for any of that; you can actually set yourself up and say no, stand your ground, and if anyone ever argues with you in the future at putting one [sewer plant] at a site, you can go back to the previous site [Sharon Drive] and say this is the perfect reason why we don’t want to do it,” he said.
While Mazzetti strongly believes the Town Board should vote to prohibit these types of plants, Barton suggested that the Town Board send the matter to the Planning Board for them to highlight all significant environmental impacts posed by these plants related to traffic, sewer, visual impacts and encourage them to require a full environmental impact on this matter.
Mazzetti said what if Falcon Ridge goes through with all of the reviews required and returns in 18 months; “Do we then get a package plant?” Barton assured him that the Town Board has the power to decide yes or no. Mazzetti pointed out that Gueron could respond by saying, “you made me spend a million dollars on this and now you’re telling me no.”
Guerriero said this developer is seeking a Conservation Subdivision for his project, inferring that this might work against him getting a private sewer plant.
Mazzetti pointed out that if the Town Board says no to the plant, no to a conservation subdivision as well as to a zoning change to allow more homes, “then the developer is stuck with their one acre lots”
Barton said at that point the developer would either have to connect to a town municipal system or build less than 49 homes; 50 or more triggers a requirement for a sewer plant.
Mazzetti said he is upset with both Gueron and the town’s land use attorney, Paul Van Cott.
“They [developer] come to us, threaten us, and say if you don’t do this we’re going to sue and then they have the balls to say by the way, we want this conservation subdivision so we can really stick it up your a** even more. At what point do we say no, you’re not going to get your package plant and you’re not getting your conservation subdivision and be done with it.”
Zoning Board Chairman John Litts said the town cannot just say no, “You have to back it up.” He said the Sharon Drive issue may be a sufficient a reason to prohibit these types of plants.
Mazzetti noted that package plants have not been written out of the code. He recalled that before coming out of the moratorium several years ago, he told attorney Van Cott that he wanted this provision removed.
“He said to me you don’t need it written out of the code, you can just say no, and now we just can’t say no,” Mazzetti said, adding that Van Cott’s advice still troubles him to this day.
Planning Board member Carl DiLorenzo said he has always been against these plants and urged the board to pass the on-hold law that would prohibit sewer plants before the town faces a lawsuit.