Can sewers save tax dollars?


Traffic on Flanders Road in Riverside, near where a developer had hoped to build a riverfront hotel but ran into environmental issues with the state. Sewers could make more commercial development possible and reduce tax burdens in Riverside and Flanders.

Suffolk County recently agreed to spend $250,000 to study whether or not to install a sewage treatment plant in Riverside, a move that could lead to increased commercial development in both Southampton Town and downtown Riverhead.

The money, which was requested by Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) and approved by the Legislature in June, will be used to study the cost, benefits and feasibility of installing a sewage treatment plant at the Suffolk County Center in Riverside. Certain areas of Flanders and Riverside would be able to hook up to the plant, creating a new sewer district.

Mr. Schneiderman said he introduced legislation requesting the money after members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton communities expressed interest in a sewer district. Business development in the area has been stifled by the lack of sewers. In 2001, developer Dede Gotthelf’s plan to build a hotel and conference center on Flanders Road received overwhelming support from the community. The project has been stalled for many years due to environmental concerns.

Mr. Schneiderman said that although infrastructure costs would require an initial investment from taxpayers, commercial development in the area should eventually lead to lower taxes.

“The idea behind this is ultimately that their taxes go down,” he said. Residents “were hoping to have a supermarket in that area. They are not going to get that type of development without sewage treatment.”

About 80 percent of the land in the area is preserved open space that has been removed from the tax rolls, according to the county legislator.

The County Center is connected to the Riverhead sewer district based off County Road 105. Sewer district superintendent Michael Reichel said that the County Center discharges about 200,000 of the 900,000 gallons of waste treated on average per day in the sewer district.

Mr. Reichel said that if waste from the County Center were diverted from his district, it could allow for more development in Riverhead’s blighted downtown.

“It would certainly open it up to more flow to the Riverhead sewer district,” he said.

The Riverhead sewer district stretches between Main Street and Middle Road from south to north and from Tanger Outlet Center to Northville Turnpike from west to east.

Mr. Schneiderman said the county would most likely manage the Riverside plant.

He said the project, if it is ever built, ideally would be 90 percent funded through federal stimulus money. Taxes from sewer district residents would finance the remaining 10 percent of its capital costs.

The final decision on whether or not to build the sewage treatment plant would be up to the residents, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Brad Bender, president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association said his group was excited about the study. “Shovels in the ground would ultimately be the thing we would want to see,” he said.

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