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Dec 21, 2015 2:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Officials Offer Explanation About Why Village Latch Inn Is Not Included In Southampton Sewer Plans

When drawing up the boundary lines for the Southampton Village sewer service area, the Village Planning Commission referred to this feasibility study map prepared under the Suffolk County Sewer District Capacity Study for the County Department of Public Works, issued in July 2014. It does not include the Village Latch Inn, located towards the bottom left corner of the screen. Courtesy Nicholas F. Bono.
Jan 5, 2016 2:41 PM

There is a curiosity about the boundary line for the proposed Southampton Village sewer district: the Village Latch Inn, a century-old hotel on Hill Street, is on one side of the line delineating the business district, while the neighboring Southampton Inn—which provides the same services, only on a slightly larger scale—is on the other.

The line makes an enormous difference in two ways: The Southampton Inn is inside the boundary and thus would be connected to the village’s proposed $33 million sewer system, and would pay a significantly higher amount each year as a result. The inn’s annual cost is expected to be about $38,000 in property taxes to help pay for the sewers, and more than $100,000 for sewage treatment services. By comparison, the total annual cost to the Village Latch Inn, on the outside of the boundary, would be a little more than $500 a year.

As of October, the Latch was in contract to be sold to developers Steven Dubb and George Benedict—the latter is the father-in-law of Village Mayor Mark Epley—with a plan in their minds to transform the property from a hotel into condominiums.

Some critics have suggested that the omission of the Latch from the sewer system proposal might be due to family ties, and that the mayor had some influence in leaving it out.

But village officials recently offered an explanation as to why the Latch isn’t included in the service area: A Suffolk County study, they said, drew the line to exclude the Latch from the village’s official business district, which is targeted for sewers.

The proposed sewer project has the goals of revitalizing Lake Agawam and promoting development in the village’s business district. The sewer district, within which properties would share the $33 million cost of installing the sewers, would encompass the entire village, but it would provide sewers only to properties considered to be within the downtown village business district.

A tax would be imposed on the entire village to help pay off a bond issue to cover the system’s installation, but property owners who connect to the system would pay a larger share of the cost, and also would have to pay an annual “sewer rent,” based on the amount of wastewater they generate, to cover operational and maintenance expenses.

The boundary line for the sewer service area was drawn up by the Village Planning Commission, with help from consultants from H2M Architects and Engineers, the firm that created the proposal for the district. According to Nicholas F. Bono, senior project engineer at H2M, the boundary lines were based on a feasibility study prepared under the Suffolk County Sewer District Capacity Study for the County Department of Public Works, issued in July 2014.

The map in that study included the Southampton Inn, with the service area boundary line drawn between it and the Latch. “The 2014 map was the basis on which the village moved forward with their project,” Mr. Bono wrote in an email.

Planning Commission Chairman Paul Travis added that the boundary line essentially follows that of the village business district, which happens to end right at the property line that straddles the Southampton Inn and the Latch. He explained that the sewer service area’s main focus is on the properties along Windmill Lane and North Sea Road—the septic systems there have the biggest impact on the health of Lake Agawam, he said—so the plan, for now, is to stick with properties within the business district.

“We ended up deciding, at least at this point, to let the initial service area match the boundary lines for the village center business district zoning,” Mr. Travis said. “We’re trying to be pretty careful and conservative at the beginning.”

The chairman noted, though, that the commission is not ruling out a future expansion of the service area, as the wastewater treatment plant slated for the Village Police Department headquarters on Windmill Lane has the capacity to include more properties. “I think it’s very possible that the village might include [Town] Hall, include the Village Latch, go north on North Sea Road,” he said.

Mr. Epley acknowledged that his relationship with one of the Latch’s potential new owners poses a “significant conflict” when it comes to decisions made at the village level about the property, and said he understands why people would make assumptions. He said, though, that his initial thought was to include the Latch in the service area—but he stressed that once Mr. Benedict started negotiations to purchase it, he “backed off” and told the Planning Commission, “You guys make the decision on this. I don’t want to be part of that.”

“I tried to stay out of that whole decision on the Latch, and I let the Planning Commission make the decision on that, as well as our consultants,” he said. “I’ve intentionally stayed away from that.”

He added: “I can honestly tell you, I’ve tried everything I could possibly do to stay away from that application. I have to be very cautious about the Latch.”

As for possibly including the property in the service area in the future, as Mr. Travis suggested, the mayor said he did not foresee that happening because it would be too much of an additional expense.

Mr. Epley also noted that with the proposed existing plan to convert the Latch into condos—23 units, to be exact—it will be a “substantially less intensive use” than the property has now as an inn, and would not warrant a connection to the system. And the fact that the village wants to avoid having residents hook up to the system—the nearby condos on Coopers Farm Road, for instance, are not included in the service area—is also another reason to exclude the Latch from the plan, Mr. Epley said.

“I struggle with that, because if there were more density on that property, it probably should be [included],” he said.

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Epley states "You guys make the decision on this. I don't want to be a part of that" yet he seems to be the voice of the Sewer District and possibly not letting the taxpayer decide on the issue. Yea Right.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Dec 21, 15 2:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
His father in law is buying the village latch so lets all cut the crap. Just like the 127 condos his father in law built. Looks bad. Let Epley step down too many conflicts. He is out of line.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 21, 15 5:52 PM
2 members liked this comment
And Epley's poodle Yaztremski wants to be elected Town Board member? It would have been interesting to get feedback from him on this issue in light of the upcoming election.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Dec 21, 15 7:02 PM
Yaz is Epley's lap dog not his poodle. Yaz has no opinion on anything. He loves spending money, and borrowing money we don't have.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 21, 15 7:24 PM
I'm sorry, I did not know you owned a poodle. No arm intended..:)
Dec 21, 15 7:57 PM appended by Toma Noku
Oops..drooped an "H"..* harm.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Dec 21, 15 7:57 PM
This story is ridiculous.
The boundary for the district was set in 2014, not 2015. That's the explanation for the discrepancy? Really?
As far as I know, Epley' had the same father in law last year as this year, and I'm sure negotiations for the Latch property were well underway by then. And of course we all believe that the county set those boundaries in the village with zero input from any village official. Uh huh.
How ironic that this involves a SEWER district, as this stinks so ...more
By GlassHouses (64), anywhere on Dec 22, 15 7:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
Who hired H2M [village], all condo's exempt??? Public House exempt, guess they don't use a lot of water??? Wonder if another firm would see it the same way???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 22, 15 8:26 AM
2 members liked this comment
The sewer system will not do much to fix Lake Agawam. Everyone living on the shore of the lake needs to upgrade their septic systems and stop fertilizing their lawns.
By Mit (4), Southampton on Dec 22, 15 9:52 AM
Groundwater doesn't discharge to the lake, no definitive study has been performed to shown that it does, only computer modeling that had the lake connected to the ocean as an estuary with the lake surface at sea level and this is not reality. The water level in the lake is higher than the groundwater table, therefore, the lake discharges to groundwater. Want to clean the lake focus on storm water flow.
By weaver (18), southampton on Dec 22, 15 10:14 AM
If you think that the lake isn't connected to groundwater - then is the lake filled with water? It's not a perched system underline with clay - it is connected to the groundwater table. The surrounding homes septic systems leach into groundwater and are drawn into the lake - that is basic physics. Yes, the elevation of the lake is higher than sea level, but that doesn't mean it's not connected to groundwater.

Storm water flow AND sanitary flow are both problematic with respect to water ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Dec 22, 15 10:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
The lake is most definitely connected to groundwater, I never said it wasn't. Water flows from high "head" to low "head". If a lake has a higher "head" (surface elevation) than the groundwater table elevation, water flows from the lake to groundwater, if the conditions are reversed groundwater flows into the lake. Flow can change based on many different factors and may not always be in one direction (e.g. seasonal change). What I said was, its my opinion that lake likely has a higher head than ...more
By weaver (18), southampton on Dec 22, 15 11:04 AM
Not one house will be able to hook up to the sewer system it is a complete sham. They sell this as something to clean up the lake, and enviroment. If they ssid it is to increase density in the business district the taxpayers would go crazy. The whole thing is a big joke that will cost more than 30 million.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 22, 15 2:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
If it has been decided that the CPF funds can be used for projects aimed at cleaning the water and

The new sewer plans are aimed at cleaning up the water and

It has been shown that there is a stark imbalance between how much Southampton residents contribute vs. how much benefit they get from the CPF and

The CPF is experienced another record year of contributions from Southampton residents

Why doesn't the CPF pay for the sewers...it's chump change to them and ...more
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Dec 27, 15 7:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
The mayor sure has a lot to say about the Village Latch even though he says he wants to recuse himself. Somehow he thinks 23 condos will put off very little waste. This guy is a narcissist blow hard who needs to go.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 1, 16 12:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
In case anyone hasn't heard, Richard Yastrzemski is currently running in the January 26 special election for a vacant seat on the Southampton Town Council, seeking to move up from Village government to Town governrnent. Technically, he didn't do anything wrong on this sewer issue, but as the Mayor's longtime ally (I'm being charitable using that word), Yaz should also have recused himself from acting on this matter.

He didn't, but then he's never been great about grasping the ethical ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jan 6, 16 11:44 AM
Obviously the sewers & storm drains below these properties merge together & dump into Agawam & then the Atlantic Ocean - despite all the silly lines drawn on a map up above & on the surface - Once it is all ruined & polluted beyond repair & you have eye & ear infections when you swim - then you can look at the maps again & wonder about the ignorance. This reminds me of the Trupin mansion - built above the limits of Town & Village ordinances when the mayor's* brother-in-law was the contractor. ...more
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Jan 7, 16 2:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just left planning board meeting. What a disaster, board has no clue. Sewer district won't clean agawam lake, only a shame to benefit a few restruants and large businesses in that area. Apartments built above the stores will not be affordable for local workers. Why are stores empty here, high high leases. Don't be fooled...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 7, 16 8:01 PM
From what I have been able to gather up to this point, the sewerage of the village district would be an extremely expensive endeavor with very little impact. It does not address the cause of Lake Agawam's continued toxicity, which according to experts, is the deep layer of phosphorous producing muck that covers the bottom of Agawam.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Jan 8, 16 8:06 AM
Will we ever Really know the Truth of it all? Some People in government have a "clever" way of trying to make you think it's not raining while you're sinking in a quick sand of mud.
By GOTGOD (14), Southampton on Jan 15, 16 10:06 AM
Will we ever Really know the Truth of it all? Some People in government have a "clever" way of trying to make you think it's not raining while you're sinking in a quick sand of mud.
By GOTGOD (14), Southampton on Jan 15, 16 10:08 AM