MAHOPAC, N.Y. - In what could be a game-changer for the business community along the Route 6 corridor in Mahopac, a proposal is on the table to create a new sewer district that would run along the highway from Union Valley Road northward to Buckshollow Road near Wallaurer’s Paint and Hardware.
The plan was presented to the Carmel Town Board last week by Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker.
Businesses in that area of Route 6 currently use private septic systems, hindering plans for growth and expansion. In fact, the recent townwide property revaluation indicated that commercial development has remained flat since the last revaluation was done some 20 years ago. But if the project comes to fruition, that could change.
“I think it’s a great initiative because the properties along that corridor do not have access to municipal sewer,” Supervisor Ken Schmitt told Walker at the Town Board’s July 26 meeting. “A lot of the property owners along there cannot maximize the use of their land. They have privately own septic systems. This would definitely enhance their properties and give them the ability to further expand to a larger building or a different type of use. I cannot begin to tell you how many of those property owners have come to me and asked if there is any chance that the sewer main could be run down Route 6 and the answer was always, “currently, no,” because New York City, which owns the treatment plant, is not allowing any additional sewage flow.”
Instead of using the New York City-owned treatment plant, the new plan would utilize the privately owned facility in Heritage Hills near the Mahopac-Somers border.
The county has committed to spending $75,000 on a facilities study for the project—$50,000 for engineering work and $25,000 for outside legal work for advice on the handling of matters related to the formation of a new sewer district.
The facilities study is required to confirm the feasibility of the project and advance it to the districting stage.
Schmitt and Walker said they’ve had several discussions with state Sen. Terrence Murphy and County Executive MaryEllen Odell about utilizing the Heritage Hills treatment plant.
The exact cost of the project is currently unknown. The facilities study, along with an engineering study, are necessary before that can be determined. The county has already issued a consolidated funding application (CFA) for a state grant, in which it estimated the cost to be around $8 million. The CFA application asks for a $1.6 million grant.
“We want to continue the progress we’ve made through our discussions and do a facilities study that would identify the number of parcels, the types of parcels, and what we could expect from some of the physical restraints and engineering constraints,” Walker told the board.
Walker said the county will put together a task force comprised of members of the Carmel Town Board and members of the county’s planning department to identify all things necessary to move forward with the project.
“At this point, conceptionally, I think we fundamentally agree that it’s possible and it would open up the commercial corridor along the Route 6 area that we all know has tremendous possibilities given the traffic that goes through there,” he said.
Walker said the project would not only benefit Mahopac and its business community, but would aid New York City’s Department of Environment Protection (DEP), and help some housing developments along the corridor solve some ongoing problems.
“We were approached by [county] Legislator Dini LoBue about [townhome development] Society Hill, but at that time we were unable to work with them to address the needs that they have with their sewage treatment plant,” Walker said. “But this [proposed plan] opens the door. I’ve met with the DEP about utilizing this [plan] to help with some of the problems at Society Hill. So, not only does it open up the corridor, but in good partnership with the DEP it enables us to solve one of the problems they are trying to deal with.”
Schmitt pointed out there are two other small privately own sewage treatment facilities within the proposed project’s area which would benefit from the plan.
“I believe these smaller privately own sewage treatment plants—one is Mahopac Village Center where Acme is now—could potentially be a part of this,” he said.
Walker said the project would bring in an array of partners that would collaborate on the plan and would solve issues for a variety of parties and agencies.
“This is an opportunity to partner and provide an opportunity for commercial growth and solve some of the DEP’s problems simultaneously,” he said. “All these things would get wrapped into a very comprehensive plan.”
Walker said the Carmel Town Board would likely be the lead agency in the endeavor and its engineering department would be heavily relied on for guidance.
“We need to put together a team of people that will define what the scope of the facilities study is,” he said. “My expectation is the Town Board would help define exactly what that is. We’ll look for DEP participation as well. We want to meet the commercial corridor needs, the DEP needs and, most importantly, meet the needs of the taxpayers of the county and the town of Carmel.”
How the project will be funded remains unclear at this stage. Walker said that once the project is more defined with the help of the facilities study, officials will have a better understanding of the total cost and can take the next step.
“Then we can decide how it’s funded; whether we get money from the state, county or town,” he explained. “Once we have done the studies, then we make a business decision with how it's funded.”
Walker said the county is “very willing to participate” in the funding of the project through bonding.
“We will have to work through the legal details on how to do that because we can’t bond what we don’t own,” he said. “However, there are legal mechanisms and ways to define how to do that. The county executive’s office is willing to do it, but the county legislature would have to approve that. But everyone I have spoken to recognizes the value of utilizing that corridor to its highest capability and the value that’s added via jobs and tax revenue. All those things come into play.”
Councilman Jonathan Schneider urged Walker to consider expanding the scope of the project.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time the town had the opportunity to work with the county and the state…to make a deal happen where we are able to expand our commercial district. So, I think we should do everything we can to encapsulate every part that is not covered right now. I feel like we should shoot for the stars—not just the path of least resistance, but the cake and the icing too because I don’t know if there will be another opportunity.”
Councilman John Lupinacci said he was excited about the project, but said he wanted to see the results of the facilities study before he was fully committed.
“On the surface, it’s a great idea. The corridor needs septic,” he said. “I love the idea that the county and other agencies are thinking outside the box. But the devil is in the details and we don’t have the details that these studies will bring forward. I am optimistic, but at the same time I will tell the public to be patiently cautious.”
Lupinacci said that the town should have ultimate control over any newly established sewer district, so it was crucial that the cost of the project be kept in line.
“We really have to watch the cost because it’s going to be a really big project,” he said. “We have to watch the disparity between the sewer districts. Obviously, there is going to be some, but we must be cognizant of that. We have to keep negotiating and working to bring the costs down. But until we have the details, we won’t know which way to go.”
Walker said the facilities study should take around six months to complete.