BALLSTON – The Town Board got a first look at a draft sewer use bill during Tuesday’s meeting that could require property owners in the Ballston Lake Sewer District to connect to the system within three years, facing fines and other legal action upon failure to make the connection.
Sewer Committee member Kim Kotkoskie presented a draft of the Ballston Lake sewer use law to the Town Board seeking feedback on the law proposed by the committee that would mandate connections to the systems in the Ballston Lake Sewer District and any future sewer districts formed by the town.
Kotkoskie explained that the committee looked at the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s 1994 model sewer use ordinance and the sewer use laws for Malta and Clifton Park.
The law would recognize Saratoga County’s rules and regulations for sewer use and the technical connection requirements of obtaining permits and industrial pretreatment would be subject to county approval. The town would be responsible for who is connecting, the applicability, the timeframe for connection and enforcement.
Under the initial draft of the law, failure to connect to the sewer system within 3 years would be made a finable offense. This is due to the project’s objectives to protect the Ballston Lake and Alplaus Kill Creek watersheds, address contamination issues for the lake and the creek, protect public health and welfare and address failing septic systems.
Requiring connection within 3 years would aid in establishing flow for the sewer system that would require flushing, generating costs for the county. The town will team up with Environment One Corporation, seeking to offer an incentivized discount to residents for the company’s sewer parts.
The highest discount would be offered for connections made in the first year, with a reduction to the offered discount made in the second year and reduced again in the third year after completion of the sewer project.
Some residents connecting to the sewer system may require grinder pumps and lateral connections that could cost as much as $10,000.
Preexisting homes, with a certificate of occupancy, that are more than 300 feet from the sewer main would be exempted from the connection mandate, however the property would remain in the sewer district and property owners would still be required to make debt payments for project.
Exempted homes would be required to perform maintenance on their existing septic systems, cleaning the system every 3 years. If the septic system on the property failed, the exemption would be rescinded and connection to the sewer system would be required within 30 days.
Properties with a septic system that was installed in January 2015 or later would be granted a delayed required hookup date of no later than December 31, 2025. Property owners in this situation would need to provide proof to the town that a properly designed system was in place.
An additional exemption may be granted for zoning non-conforming parcels in the sewer district. Kotkoskie explained that there are several parcels in the sewer district that are not buildable under town zoning without receiving a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
She proposed adding an exemption that would remove these properties from the sewer district, relieving the property owner from sewer debt payments if the property owner placed a deed restriction on the land preventing any building on the site.
“This would be a great green concept for the lake, because you would never have any building on that parcel,” Kotkoskie said. “This is the one topic that we need the board to help us with. The map, plan and report unfortunately never identified this option for removal and every time you remove a parcel from the district you’re distributing that debt burden onto the remaining parcels.”
Approximately 12 and a half parcels currently fall into this category, although additional properties could meet this condition if property owners performed subdivisions resulting in non-conforming parcels.
Attorney for the Ballston Lake Sewer District project, Bruce Steves of Ianniello Annderson, cautioned the board that it may not be possible or advisable to offer this option legally, as the properties in question were deemed to benefit from the project in the initial map, plan and report and were subsequently included in debt services cost estimates that were approved by voters in the referendum.
“From my perspective, if they were not in fact benefited they should have not been included in the district in the first place,” Steves said.
Engineer on the Ballston Lake sewer project, Ed Hernandez of Adirondack Mountain Engineering, pointed out that the state comptroller is typically concerned with maintaining the debt service payment for projects at or below the approved amount, rather than preventing parcels from being removed from the equation.
“Another way to maybe look at it too, is that it’s not that they are not being benefited now, there is just a better benefit for the community to do this rather than the other thing, so you’re really trading the benefit,” Hernandez said.
The Town Board members agreed that they were interested in pursuing the option further, requesting that Steves draft a version of the option and seek advisement from the state comptroller.
The board agreed that the draft of the proposed local law should be released to the public in its current form. A public hearing date has not been set.
“I’d just like to add while we’re talking about this local law, it sounds like we’re mandating and we’re doing this and we’re doing that, the people in this district voted for this. This is something that they wanted, a majority voted and there is a purpose for putting the sewers in and that’s to protect the lake. This is the means of enforcing and a lot of work is going into this,” Town Board member William Goslin said.
The town will be holding four public information sessions for property owners in the Ballston Lake Sewer District to answer questions regarding the project. Updated information on the project schedule, estimated costs, property owner responsibilities and easements will be available.
The sessions will be held at Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Tuesday Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Registration for the meetings is required, those interested in attending may sign up here.
Residents receiving easements are encouraged to attend to receive additional information and to process their easement requests with notaries who will be on site. Please bring photo identification, preferably a driver’s license, passport or non-driver identification.