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Nov 12, 2019 1:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Civic Association Urges Southampton Town To Force Sale Of Land For Riverside Sewer District Project

The proposed Riverside Sewer District needs an area to create an outflow in order to move forward.  RACHEL VALDESPINO
Nov 12, 2019 3:40 PM

For over three years, the people of Riverside have been waiting to complete the final stages of the area’s very own sewer district. The project would allow for the further revitalization and progression of the hamlet.

According to the members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, plans for the pipes are in place — all that’s holding back completion is finding the right recharge area, a piece of land for the water flow to filter through to go back into the bay.

But finding the right land has been a challenge.

FRNCA officials recently sent a letter to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Scheiderman about the issues they’re facing, and urging the town to utilize eminent domain to purchase the recharge area. Eminent domain is the right government has to take over private property for the good of the public.

Mr. Schneiderman, however, said he has not received any confirmation from anyone that the land was needed, from a technical standpoint, to make the sewer district achievable.

“Typically, if you do need a recharge area, you have lots of choices, because you can pump the water, the discharge, to a piece of property. I wasn’t aware that that wasn’t easy. I wasn’t aware that it was an issue,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We have not had an opportunity to discuss his letter yet. It looked like they would be using eminent domain — and that’s typically something we don’t like to use, unless there are no other options available.”

FRNCA President Vincent Taldone said Southampton Town and the master developer, Riverside Rediscovered, the company that the town hired several years ago to oversee the revitalization of the hamlet, have put together a plan for a sewer collection district after many years of meetings and studies. A sewer collection district determines where the pipes are placed, where the water flows, and where the sewage goes to be treated.

“In the old days, before we knew better, people would clean the water … and then they’d flush it out into the ocean,” said Mr. Taldone. “What everyone found out years later was salt was starting to intrude from the bay into the groundwater, because we’re pumping up water and not replacing it.”

Mr. Taldone said that, according to the plan, acquiring the land needed to complete the sewer district will allow the drainage to end up in a wetland, where it will be further filtered and become a part of the environment. Ideally, the water should filter down through the land before finding its way back into the water system.

Both Riverside Rediscovered and the town identified a couple of sites that could serve as the location for the recharge area, most of which are uphill, which would make the flow of water rather difficult.

“Then they found this site on Flanders Road, all the way down to the waterfront, which had been dumped on since the 1950s — maybe earlier,” Mr. Taldone said. “The idea, which was almost a year ago, was to buy this land, and restore the wetland that was there, get rid of invasives (species), and use that as the outflow.”

The land described by Mr. Taldone is not buildable because of several decades of dumping. Mr. Taldone said the town would potentially purchase the land for the purpose of the sewer district and would pay via grants and state funding.

“We know we can do this, and actually make it beautiful while making it something that works as a sewage treatment outflow. It sounds like a terrible thing that you wouldn’t want next door to you — but you would.”

The land has been owned by the same family for several generations. According to FRNCA there is no active business, home, campsite or sacred grounds on the property. But multiple efforts to contact the owners about a possible sale have been fruitless, he said, prompting his request for the town to acquire it through eminent domain, which can use the courts to force a sale.

Mr. Taldone said that among the plans for the Riverside redevelopment are a 300,000-square-foot area of commercial development. This would include affordable apartments and condominiums, which would take up half of the space, in addition to a possible assisted living center. But the sewer district needs to be completed first in order to move forward, he said.

“I went through this process for many years with endless meetings, where unlike most places, the community came out and said ‘yes,’” he said of the planned development.

There hasn’t been any meeting regarding the Riverside sewer district within the last six months, due to the lack of updates, he said.

“Many plans are on hold, because there’s no point in building a building unless a sewer can be built,” Mr. Taldone said. “You don’t need the sewer now — you need to know that it’s going to be there in two or three years when you’re going to be building.”

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Sewer districts are going to allow East End communities to thrive. Much needed infrastructure improvements.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Nov 13, 19 12:26 PM
Sorry...”we can’t track down the owners of this property, so the government should just take it”? That’s what we do now in America? Eminent domain is not a convenience tool, and it is not an alternative to figuring out a tough deal. It is an ABSOLUTE LAST RESORT when the public MUST have a specific property, and there is absolutely no other way to get it. I think you need to go back to work, not ask the government to confiscate a family’s land.
By CPalmer (122), Southampton on Nov 13, 19 12:49 PM
Actually the Supreme Court ruled that this is perfectly legal, in fact you can use Eminent Domain even for a private company to take land as long as it's guaranteed to be beneficial to a community (i.e. create jobs). Whether it's ethical or not, that's a whole other story.
By eagleeye (82), Sag Harbor on Nov 13, 19 3:08 PM
“Can” and “should” are 2 different things. At least, they are supposed to be.
By CPalmer (122), Southampton on Nov 13, 19 3:45 PM