Proposed sewer district for Riverside faces more roadblocks

Officials have long said that plans for the redevelopment of Riverside are dependent on Southampton Town building a sewer system.

But now, officials say the owners of one of the properties being sought as part of that system are refusing to even discuss selling their property, potentially delaying the development of the new sewer district by years.

“As you may remember, the sewer district was supposed to go to a public hearing about five months ago,” said Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, at Monday’s meeting. “We were targeting around June, but you haven’t heard anything. The problem is, everything is ready to go except one property in the way.”

The FRNCA board voted Monday to ask the Southampton Town Board to consider and possibly initiate the use of eminent domain, also called condemnation, as a means of acquiring the property.

“They are holding up possibly hundreds of millions of dollars of development because they are not ready to talk,” Mr. Taldone said.

The letter cited three specific properties, comprising 40.6 acres, which are owned by Susan E. Schumejda, John Schumejda Jr. and Susan Schumejda, according to town records.

Susan E. Schumejda did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Under eminent domain, a condemnation judge would rule as to whether the property has a greater public purpose, and if it does, the land would be turned over to, in this case, the town. The courts would later determine the price to be paid for the land by comparing appraisals and other information supplied by both sides.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman was at the FRNCA meeting but left before the sewer district discussion.

“I thought we had all the land we needed,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “This is the first I’m hearing of this.”

He declined comment on the condemnation issue.

While the sewage plant is being planned for south side of Flanders Road, in what was once part of the Flanders Drive, the area in question is on the north side of Flanders Road near Kirk Avenue, and is being envisioned as a drainage site where the sewer effluent that would be cleaned by the sewage treatment system could be filtered back into the ground.

Officials said that dredge spoil was deposited on much of this property back in the 1950s and remains there today. It’s likely that at least some of this material would have to be removed, according to Sean McLean, CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, which was chosen by Southampton Town in 2013 as the “master developer” for Riverside.

“It’s not like the property owners are seeking too much or too little for the land,” Mr. Taldone said. “They simply won’t discuss it.”

A condemnation procedure would require a public hearing, he said.

The sewer district project would improve the property, he said, because it would restore the wetlands and remove decades-old dredge spoil that can’t be built on.

The project also would be much better for the environment because it would prevent homes from having cesspools along the river, Mr. McLean said.

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