Southampton approves Riverside sewer project despite ongoing concerns from Riverhead officials

The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously recently to create a Riverside Sewer District, a move officials hope will increase development in Riverside, one of the poorest hamlets on Long Island.

The move is part of a nearly decade-old Riverside Revitalization Action Plan aimed at using zoning changes to encourage the development of new housing and business opportunities in a community with the lowest median income in Suffolk County.

The plan calls for a new sewer treatment plant on Flanders Road near the Riverside traffic circle, which would pave the way for up to 3.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, including as many as 2,300 units of high-density affordable housing concentrated in a small, historically depressed neighborhood on Riverhead’s doorstep. Riverhead officials, who have hired outside counsel in anticipation of potential legal action to block the plan, argue that conditions in the area have changed since the proposal was formulated in 2015. They say the amount of new development projected would put enormous strain on an already overextended Riverhead school district. Riverhead Town provides a variety of services to the Riverside community, including firefighters, schooling and library services, as well as Little League and youth football programs. Riverhead also has a contract to treat the wastewater from the county center and correctional facility there.

Some area residents welcomed the plan.

“We’re happy, but why did it take so long?” said Chris Sheldon of Northampton, adding that the sewer district will help restore the businesses and reinvigorate Flanders Road, while also helping protect the environment.

Financing for the $44 million sewer district is expected to come from grants according to Supervisor Maria Moore. Those grants include $250,000 from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program, $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and an additional $5 million in federal funding.

The project also qualified for a New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation grant of $19,242,000.

“This is about revitalization of Riverside and mitigating nitrogen in the estuary,” said Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni. “We made history by adopting this.”